Sandy History Being Documented by NJ College
Superstorm Sandy was one of the most significant events to affect the state. A group of students from one of New Jersey's top-rated colleges is making sure the event is memorialized for generations to come.
The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) is attempting to create a permanent historical record of the experiences that people had during the storm and in its aftermath. Lead by Associate Professor of History Matthew Bender, the Hurricane Sandy Oral History Project consists of a databank full of personal accounts about the storm.
"We want this to be a starting point for something bigger. We want the college to become a place where people who want to do serious historical research about Sandy, or where ordinary people who want to read memories about the storm can go and find a wide range of experiences," Bender said.
In 2013, Bender incorporated an oral history component into one of the classes he was teaching. It became so successful that he built an academic course around it in which 18 students were assigned to six teams. Each team was charged with a different section of the state. They went to communities impacted by Sandy to look for people with compelling stories. More than 100 interviews were gathered, with 67 narratives now available to the public.
Bender said while the teams are no longer out in the communities, he continues to hear from people that want to share their personal stories.
So far, the collection of interviews includes people who lost homes and business, first responders, people who were involved in redevelopment, political officials, people with technical expertise from Stevens Institute of Technology and people from the National Weather Service.
"We feel very strongly that part of the response to the storm is to build a historical resource. We have found from the people we have interviewed that many of them have fantastic, compelling stories to share and if we don't make a concerted effort to record those stories, they will be lost over the course of time," Bender said. "We want to create a permanent testament to the storm and the tremendous challenges that it posed to so many people in the state."
Excerpts from the interviews can be heard at http://hurricanesandy.pages.tcnj.edu/.