Student helps Staten Island try to recover from the ‘Frankenstorm’

Members of the Seton Hall community are lending a hand to help others in the wake of last week’s storm.

Journalism major John Lopiano, of Staten Island, is among those devastated by the hurricane Sandy. Lopiano said, there were more than 23 reported deaths on the island and hundreds of people left homeless.

“It’s peoples’ lives that have been changed,” he said. “They no longer have homes and the blocks they used to call home are now condemned.”

Lopiano’s mother worked with others setting up a relief center at St. Charles Church in the Oakwood section of Staten Island where his sisters attend school. They received sizeable donations of food, water, clothing, toiletries and toys over a span of three days.

“We welcomed anyone to come and stock up on things they lost during the storm, charge their phones or laptops, or maybe just sit down and have a hot meal,” Lopiano said.

“It was so inspiring to see how so many people came to donate things and volunteer their time to help their neighbors.”

He said that volunteers walked along the shore to distribute food and supplies to those trying to clean the mess that Sandy left behind. According to Lopiano, cleanup and recovery could take as long as a year and isn’t some- thing any amount of money could fix.

“Our eastern and southern coasts were devastated,” Lopiano said.

The hurricane not only destroyed many peoples’ homes but also irreplaceable items. Lopiano was overwhelmed by the amount of loss as he went to donate clothing to his local shelter.

“Seeing the people in that shelter, having lost their homes and some even having lost a family member or a pet brought me to tears,” he said. “It’s something I can’t even describe, to know that their life was just ripped out from under them and changed in one night.”

Other students have also felt the impact the storm. Sophomore Matt Ullrich has not been back to visit his mother in Seaside Heights, N.J., but has kept in touch with family and friends.

“It’s just weird seeing everything on TV and Facebook,” Ullrich said. “You’re so used to seeing it one way and after seeing this, it’s surreal. I can’ believe it and I haven’t even seen it in person.”

According to Ullrich, the storm caused major damage to the gas lines in the town, making residents, including his mother evacuate from their homes. They will not be able to return for six to eight months due to the reconstruction of the gas lines. Because of the possible danger the lines pose, cleanup may not start immediately.

Seaside Heights is the setting for MTV’s popular reality show “Jersey Shore.” Ullrich said he was already used to seeing familiar places on TV, but the recent images are unsettling.

“When the show ‘Jersey Shore’ first came on, it was kind of cool because you got to see all the places you know on TV. Now I’m seeing all these places on TV for a different reason and it’s just overwhelming.”

Although Sandy has brought turmoil, Lopiano said that it’s more about seeing things in a positive light.

“Some of these people may have lost their homes, but they haven’t lost their neighbors,” he said. “We will continue to rebuild our area until it’s back to normal, no matter how long it takes.”

Tiffany Do can be reached at

Author: Tiffany Do

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