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I just want to be home so bad’

Jill Barwick and Megan Doyle | Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Notre Dame senior Luke Heneghan’s hometown of Point Lookout, N.Y., sits on a barrier island with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Raymond Channel on the other side.

On Monday, the ocean and the channel waters met in the middle of the island.

“The house is flooded real bad,” Heneghan said. “The basement is completely flooded, like above the waist.”

Heneghan’s home was just one of thousands affected by Superstorm Sandy, which slammed into the East Coast on Monday. Sandy began as a hurricane-level storm and had downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it hit land, but its power has wreaked havoc on the northeastern coastline since Sunday night.

“I just want to be home so bad,” Heneghan said. “My dad was there for 30 years, and it’s the worst he’s ever seen. … He was saying, like everybody in town, it looks like a war zone.”

Heneghan’s parents stayed in their home through Sandy’s storm and have safely come through the worst. Their town, however, has seen significant damage. He described cars flooded in driveways and lost kayaks floating through the streets. The family will be without power for at least a week, he said.

“It’s just amazing that everyone’s alive,” he said.

Saint Mary’s senior Tara Fulton, whose family resides in Sicklerville, N.J., about 30 minutes from Atlantic City, frequently checked in with her parents and news reports throughout the day Monday.

“My parents prepared for the storm by buying extra water and food that did not need to be kept cold in case of power outages,” Fulton said. “They took in all of the lawn furniture and anything that was in our yard that might blow away from the high winds the hurricane caused. My dad also went and bought a generator in the event the power went out during the storm.”

Fulton’s father, who works at a UPS in Philadelphia International Airport, was shocked to find out that the store was closed and the airport was shut down.

“No one is allowed to drive on the roads at home because there is a state emergency in New Jersey,” Fulton said. “All of the bridges in and out of New Jersey and Pennsylvania were closed down until the early morning.”

Notre Dame senior Jamie Murray and Saint Mary’s senior Caroline Gallagher both said their neighborhoods in New Canaan, Conn., also felt the effects of Sandy’s storms.

“A tree hit my dad’s house and also blocked the driveway so that my family could not leave their house,” Gallagher said. “My town has been okay so far, however, there are tons of electric lines down and everyone has been on a ‘curfew’ since Monday at noon. Almost everyone lost power, but by some miracle, my mom has not yet.”

Gallagher, who spent her summer in New York City at her apartment on East 34th Street in Manhattan, close to where tremendous flooding has occurred since the hurricane hit the coast, was also nervous about what would happen to that neighborhood.

“I could not find out any information other than what was being broadcasted on the TV on Monday,” she said. “All I could think about was my family and friends during the day. There are so many people that have been directly impacted by the storm and at different severities.”

Murray said her father is unsure when he will be able to return to work in his New York City office.

“The train lines are shut down, the city is shut down,” she said.

Murray’s family in Connecticut will be without power for between 10 to 14 days, she said.

“It’s important to remember that it’s still an island, and this was definitely a reminder of that,” Murray said. “[New York City] is still susceptible to the ocean and its storms. It’s such a heart of the East Coast for my area, and when it’s under stress everything can feel it.”

Christina Grasso, a Saint Mary’s graduate, now lives in Lower Manhattan and was part of Zone A, the areas in which Mayor Bloomberg ordered a mandatory evacuation for residents.

“I was cautious but truly did not expect it to be quite so disastrous having lived through Hurricane Irene here last year,” Grasso said. “As a result, I just stocked up on water and candles and made sure all of my electronics were fully charged as the power is out indefinitely.”

Grasso, as well as others in her neighborhood, did not follow the mayor’s repeated urgings to partake in the mandatory evacuations established in her area. She, like many others, did not anticipate the damage to be so severe.

“Throughout the day Monday, it was windy and rainy,” Grasso said. “Everything came to a head around 7 p.m. when Lower Manhattan began to flood severely. There were cars fully submerged and floating down surrounding streets in what looked like almost 10 feet of water.”

As of Monday night, Grasso was stranded in her apartment building with her lobby under at least a foot of seawater.

“I am hoping to regain power and have the ability to venture outside of my apartment building without having to swim to get to the nearest location,” she said. “The sooner I can get out, the better.”

Grasso noted how extremely saddening it was to watch New York City, “a place that has been through so much, get hit by such a destructive storm.”

“This city has the strength and resilience to rebound from just about anything, but it is disheartening to watch everything unfold firsthand and worry about others who might be in greater danger,” Grasso said.

While friends and family of Saint Mary’s students on the East Coast are beginning to wade through the destruction, the College offered prayer services during Mass on Monday and Tuesday nights.

Judy Fean, the director of Campus Ministry at the College, sent an email on Monday notifying students about the Masses as well as including links for those who want to make donations for hurricane relief. Fean added that Campus Ministry will take up a collection at Masses on Nov. 4.

Notre Dame senior Mara Catlaw said she has only been able to text her family back in Interlaken, N.J., as the flood waters in her town recede.

“The whole county is pretty much just a wreck,” she said. “Our house is about a mile from the ocean, the whole boardwalk is pretty ripped up.”

Catlaw will be able to see the damage for herself when she returns home for Thanksgiving break. Her family might still be out of power then, she said.

“[My mom] walked around a little bit and really can’t believe how horrible it is,” she said. “She said we’re lucky that our house is still standing.”