Last Wednesday was the start of unrelenting rain. By mid-afternoon, a hurrah rang up across campus. All classes were cancelled as of 3 p.m. At first, I was naive to the severity of the rainfall. I thought, “What’s the big deal with just a few puddles?” But I later learned that this rain was just the beginning.
Tropical Storm Lee affected families and homes from Virginia through New York, and 100,000 people were evacuated. Even within our own community, about 20,000 residents were evacuated.
Late Wednesday, students were notified that all Thursday classes would be cancelled. Then again late Thursday, students were notified that all Friday classes would be cancelled. Each “Rave Alert” sent a wave of relief throughout the student body. In all my excitement, I overlooked the reasons behind these cancellations: that they were not for the purpose of postponing students’ tests, but for the benefit and safety of those in the midst of a natural disaster.
On Friday, the realization of this natural disaster hit home. As I stumbled across a picture from Facebook of an entire house submerged under water, I was completely shocked and devastated. All of their belongings, the entirety of their life, now damaged or destroyed. How could I have been so selfish to feel lucky that classes were cancelled? How could I have been so selfish to feel excitement because of such a catastrophic flood?
Throughout the weekend, those displaced by the flood gathered in the Events Center. Many Binghamton University students worked together with the American Red Cross and National Guard to set up beds, serve food and make everyone who had lost their homes feel at home. I attempted to help out on both Thursday and Friday, but was told by the Events Center Emergency Hotline that they were fully staffed with volunteers and would keep others notified if they were needed.
Despite my own inability to help, the fact that those in need were under the vigilant and supportive care of so many BU students was comforting enough.
While many helped out in the Events Center, others actually went out. On Friday night, the damage caused by the additional 38 feet of water in the Susquehanna River did not stop BU students from partying. Whether they took a boat, swam or trekked through the waist-high waters in boots, some students managed to have a fun weekend night out.
I had been told, and even saw pictures, that all of Downtown looked like a new river. But somehow, the bars and frat houses were spared such destruction. How is it fair that hundreds of people lost their homes, and yet our places to party were saved? How is it fair that our campus survived with merely a few puddles, and yet we had to watch as an entire community that supports us got washed away?
Many people in the Binghamton community who make daily contributions to our student lives — our cab drivers, our waiters and waitresses, our professors and our faculty — were terribly affected in ways we can’t understand. After my initial reaction of relief and excitement about class cancellations, I feel extremely guilty, yet grateful that I was in no means personally affected by the flood.
And I hope all the best for everyone that was.