Posts Tagged ‘Hurricane Sandy’

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Teaching after Hurricane Sandy

posted: 12.3.12 by Susan Naomi Bernstein

Many years ago, while I was working on the third edition of Teaching Developmental Writing, I used to write in a now-closed coffee shop in Cincinnati, Ohio, with Jonathan Alexander. Jonathan was working on Literacy, Sexuality, Pedagogy: Theory and Practice for Composition Studies. We would write intensively for several hours, then head across the state line to a taqueria in Kentucky. In the midst of those long and precious writing days, Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana and Mississippi, places where Jonathan grew up and still had family. Jonathan headed home with the photojournalist John Hughes, and the two of them created an article for the local alternative weekly newspaper. The following spring, Jonathan came to speak with my students about his experiences in the aftermath of Katrina, and we also spoke about our experience of writing together, of the significance of building a support system for the writing process. One of the students had taken part in the Ohio National Guard cleanup efforts in Mississippi and created her own photo essay, which she shared with the class. In those moments, we experienced the profound sense that we were living through history.

There was no coming to terms with what happened in New Orleans, neither the destruction, nor worse still, the abandonment of the city’s people to Katrina’s aftermath of toxic floodwaters and oppressive late-summer heat and humidity. I will never forget what Jonathan told me when he returned from New Orleans. The destruction of the city was beyond description and co-existing with that fact was the peculiar feeling of returning to Cincinnati where all seemed “normal.” Normalness, Jonathan suggested, now seemed an illusion, strange and temporary. Our surroundings could change at any time, with no notice, with the power of nature over which we had no control. The material world we took for granted could be swept away in the blink of an eye. [read more]

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Writing After Hurricane Sandy

posted: 11.19.12 by Susan Naomi Bernstein

Arriving at school after a week of cancelled classes due to Hurricane Sandy, I was greeted by birds. A flock of pigeons and seagulls circled overhead, occasionally swooping down to the parking lot across from my bus stop. An older woman, pulling an empty two-wheeled cart toward the supermarket on the opposite side of the parking lot, stopped to speak with me. “They’re hungry,” she said, glancing up at the birds crying in the gray morning sky, “and I have no food for them.”

Until that moment I had not considered the birds, how they too were suffering from a storm whose disastrous aftermath had left me without language. Yet my loss felt small. What was language compared to lost life, lost shelter, lost livelihood? Compared to food, medicine, and gas shortages, to power and public transit lost to flooding tidal waves and sustained hurricane-force winds? To people with infirmities that prevented them from navigating twenty flights of stairs, trapped on the upper floors of high rises with no electricity—and therefore without elevators? To children whose schools were closed indefinitely because of structural damage? To people whose homes and families had been swept out to sea?  [read more]

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Tweeting in Times of Crisis

posted: 11.15.12 by Andrea Lunsford

When Hurricane Sandy blasted ashore in New Jersey two weeks ago, I had just managed to miss the havoc by changing plans (and planes) and flying back to San Francisco not through Washington Dulles but through Houston, just hours ahead of the storm.  I had been in Philadelphia, Boston, and Raleigh, and everywhere I went people were working feverishly in preparation for what they knew would be a killer.

By the time the devastation began in earnest, I was back in a surreal and sunny northern California where it was hard to imagine what I was hearing from friends and colleagues along the east coast.  A colleague reported that two windows had just blown out of her Manhattan apartment, another that the first floor of  her home was flooded, and yet another that his car was up to the windows in water.  The natural disasters that are piling up in this age of global warming seem to be coming faster and more furiously lately. In such times, people want and need connections, want and need to know what is happening to family and friends, want and need information.

How many of us turned, in this latest disaster, to Twitter?  If you did, then you got a sense of just how powerful that medium of information sharing can be.  Tweets came by the thousands: news as it happens. Right at the moment and moment by moment we could follow the storm and, more importantly, the people experiencing it.  This contemporary form of communication seemed to eclipse ordinary TV and radio because it was so unedited and often so raw.  I felt awash in hurricane-force messages, tossed around by and with them, and grateful for it. [read more]

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