On her way to biology class at St. Michael’s college in Colchester Vt., freshman Devan Piniewski’s first-day jitters were trumped by fear for loved ones at home.
When Hurricane Irene swept through Vermont on Sunday, areas surrounding Burlington, Vt., a locale saturated with college students, remained largely untouched, while the southern counties were devastated.
“All I wanted to do was go home to help with the clean-up but I couldn’t,” Piniewski says. “My friend’s house was right on the river. His family was evacuated by helicopter and now his home is gone.”
Piniewski’s tale is similar to many being told by students attending universities while preoccupied with tragedy at home.
USA TODAY reported that it was the worst flooding to strike the state in 83 years. National Weather Service hydrologist Greg Hanson called it “one of the top weather-related disasters in Vermont’s history.”
Students away from home received texts and phone calls about their high schools starting weeks late, parents trapped in houses and town buildings and roads washed away.
“As you know, the state of Vermont has been hit with one of the worst natural disasters in our history,” Senator Bernie Sanders said in an email. “Hundreds of roads and bridges have been damaged or destroyed. Vermonters throughout the state have seen their homes, businesses and farms suffer terrible damage.”
The universities and colleges in the area, as well as others around the state, are organizing outreach efforts.
“I have been in contact with the Governor’s office, informing them that the University will do all we can in response to the most urgent needs identified by the State of Vermont,” John Bramley, interim president at the University of Vermont says. “If needed, we will make available equipment, skilled and unskilled labor, other volunteers, professional expertise, and organized fund, food, and materials drives as this situation unfolds.”
Students are encouraged to text in donations, volunteer time, donate blood and contribute needed supplies.
Many, like University of Vermont senior Megan Barros, are making the trek down to damaged towns to volunteer with the clean up.
“The town of Wilmington has a list of things they need done,” Barros says. “They are just trying to put the town back together. People are displaced from their homes.”
Barros collected non-perishable food items, clothing, blankets and towels from her friends and teammates before heading down to Wilmington on Friday.
At Middlebury College, the football team helped fill and stack sandbags to keep Otter Creek from overwhelming downtown Middlebury.
University of Vermont Provost Jane Knodell asked faculty members to be sensitive to students facing challenges after the storm.
“Our faculty and staff alike should be alert to students that may have experienced significant emotional trauma or personal loss as a result of the devastation,” Knodell says.
Powered by Facebook Comments