"I used to cry because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet." - Anonymous My grandfather taught me many life lessons. He used this particular one quite often and I find it resonating in my head in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. For every story about loss of power, there's another about a foot of water in someone's house. For every tree that crashed through someone's living room, there was a flood that wiped out an entire house and all of its contents. Finally there were stories about people who lost their lives.
It's not my intention to diminish anyone's troubles; they are all very real and personal. However, there are people who, in the midst of their own problems, focused on those less fortunate and immediately started helping others in need.
Sammy Steinlight of Steinlight Media, while his home was without power, launched the website JerseyShoreRelief.com. He partnered with the Red Cross to make sure all funds raised went to help the shore community he loves. His efforts have not only raised money, but last week, a train (yes a train!) full of supplies arrived from Louisiana due to Sammy's efforts. A great article featuring his story ran on NJ.com and is linked here.
Seth Ruderman planned to run the NYC Marathon, training for months. Before the marathon was cancelled, he decided that instead of running the five boroughs, he would help each of the five boroughs. He gathered donations, enough to fill five trucks, and on that Sunday, he visited each borough and made donations. He works for UBS and word of his generosity spread throughout the company and offices around the country started mailing supplies as well.
NBC's telethon, put together in hours, raised $23 million and solidified a friendship between Bruce Springsteen and Governor Chris Christie. Billy Joel sang his song Miami 2017 with it's opening line, "I've seen the lights go out on Broadway" and Jon Bon Jovi opened with a touching "Who Says You Can't Go Home?"
Governor Christie launched a fund. My own company, CBRE, launched a Hurricane Relief fund, which included a matching program. My uncle, Steven Levine, was feeding first responders and volunteers for days at remote locations while The WindMill was closed and has coordinated the distributions of large donations, some of which were mailed from California and Florida.
Countless people are volunteering in countless ways and the list goes on and on.
After hearing stories about families down the shore with small children that lost everything, my wife, Christine, decided she wanted to focus her efforts on helping children. She started gathering clothes and baby gear that our children have outgrown and coordinated her friends to do the same. She continues to coordinate boxes and boxes of donations, shuttling them down the shore to recipients in need.
And while I don't like to get too personal, I want to share a quick story about my daughter, Avery. When I started to explain to my five year-old that there were kids who lost their toys in the hurricane, she interrupted me. She said, "Daddy, I need to give them some of my toys," and immediately started gathering toys to donate. Not only toys she doesn't play with, but also toys she still enjoys because she wanted to help others. In my five years as a parent, I don't think I have had a prouder moment.
It will take a lot of collective effort, and it may take a while, but by working together, we will get there. The Shore that we all know and love may be different going forward, but we will rebuild and restore, maybe making it better than ever. One step at a time, one toy at a time, one hero at a time. After all, as Bruce said in Atlantic City, "Everything dies baby that's a fact, but baby everything that dies someday comes back."
Please share your stories of Hurricane Sandy and any heroes that you ran into.