Reflections from Taiwan on Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey

Being Away

It’s hard to be away when tragedy strikes. By “away,” I mean anywhere that separates you from family or friends who are dealing with heartbreak and loss. It could even happen when a place that you love is hit by disaster and you’re not close enough to help or even to grieve with others who understand.

I first experienced this during my freshman year of college when the September 11th attacks occurred in New York. I was living in a college dorm in quaint Wilmore, Kentucky. As I watched news reel of the devastation in NYC, just an hour from where I grew up in New Jersey, my heart ached to be close to home. In November of that same year, my grandfather died unexpectedly, and again I faced the hurt (a profoundly deeper one this time) of walking through most of my grief separated by physical distance from everyone else who was mourning the loss of our beloved Papa D.

Over the years, I’ve been “away” a lot, but I’ve also witnessed other friends who have had this same heartache. I remember one friend who was studying abroad when her grandparent died–one semester of travel stretched into a lifetime of separation from her family. One teacher in Taiwan was called home to Canada to see his grandmother before she passed away. Sometimes we make it home to say goodbye or to be part of solution, but sometimes we don’t.

I think it’s safe to say that we all have times of being “away” when we’d rather be home.

Sandy’s Crippling Effects

Photo credit: Chris Weathers

Right now, I’m sitting at my kitchen table in Taiwan, sifting through online articles, photos, and videos of the devastation left in the path of Hurricane Sandy. Occasionally, I am surprised by a catch in my throat or a tear in my eye when I stumble upon news or images of a place that I know. It’s strange to be “away,” to read Facebook posts of friends who are still without power, who are wondering when school will start again, who are bailing water out of basements. It feels unreal to see the names of places where I’ve worked, vacationed, and lived tucked into stories about flooded streets, crippled communities, gas rationing, and rescue efforts.

Hurricane Sandy barreled in and blasted everything in her path. I think that we’re just now realizing the amount of damage Sandy has caused. The death toll is still rising: the latest count is 102 people. Though that number might seem low as compared to other natural disasters  around the world, every life counts and every death stings. The devastation from this storm is widespread and real: people are without power, cities are without electricity, families have lost homes and businesses. If you haven’t kept up with the news, here are some web resources that paint a good picture of the devastation and the needs:

What Can I Do?

I wish that I were in the U.S. so that I could volunteer to clean up or give my time at a shelter. But I’m not there, so what can I do?

  1. I can pray. I have been praying and I will continue to pray for the people who have been affected most by this storm. God is in control, and He has all of the resources. Prayer is not a last-ditch effort when there’s nothing else to do. Prayer is our most effective resource in a situation like this.
  2. I can give money. The U.S. is now estimating that the damage from Sandy is as high as $50 billion USD, the “second most expensive storm in U.S. history after Hurricane Katrina” (CBS News). My donation could make a difference.

You can pray and give financially as well. Would you consider giving a donation to the Red Cross or the Salvation Army in order to help rebuild New Jersey and surrounding areas? Here is more information about how to give:

  • Both the Red Cross and the Salvation Army are offering assistance to Hurricane Sandy victims. This article tells how to contribute funds through these two organizations and many other organizations that are also helping.
  • Give through iTunes. Wow, could they make it any easier to donate? Go to, and click on the “Superstorm Sandy Relief” icon at the bottom right of the homepage. This will open up your iTunes store and take you directly to a way to donate to the Red Cross through your iTunes account.

I hope you’ll continue to remember the victims of Hurricane Sandy as time goes on. I, for one, will be thinking of, praying for, and donating money to help my beloved home state even while I am away.

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