"It’s like a living hell. If it wasn’t for the people giving out food and blankets, I don’t know what we would do."
- LaToya Miller of Brooklyn
A lot has happened since Superstorm Sandy struck the Mid-Atlantic region on October 29th. President Obama has been re-elected. The Middle East is on the brink of another all-out war. And the American economy inches closer by the day to the fiscal cliff. But we must not forget that three weeks after the worst storm to hit the Northeast in decades, tens of thousands of residents remain homeless, hungry, without heat and unable to provide for their families, including many who live in New York’s public housing buildings.
Like Hurricane Katrina, which struck New Orleans in 2005, the ravages of Sandy did not subside when the rains stopped and the winds died down. In fact, the recovery will cost billions and take months, if not years. The National Urban League intends to play a vital role in that effort.
On Monday of this week, we were able to return to our offices in lower Manhattan for the first time since the storm. But, for thousands of New Yorkers and others in the hardest hit areas, job number one has become finding a place to live or a way to heat their damaged homes. The National Urban League family has rallied to their support. In fact, while our offices were closed, a number of National Urban League staffers have been volunteering to help families in Coney Island and Long Island get back on their feet. And last week, at our annual Equal Opportunity Day Dinner in Manhattan, we announced that we have established a special relationship with two families in need.
The family of Rev. Dennis Loncke, pastor of Pilgrim Church of Arverne in Far Rockaway lost both their houses and their church in the storm and are struggling not only to put their own lives in order, but to serve their church family as well. And the family of Doris Fench is struggling to regain its footing after their home was destroyed and all their belongings were lost.
Thousands more are suffering and resources are still desperately needed. Requests for unemployment benefits surged to 439,000 last week due to the large number of people who have lost jobs as a result of the storm. And New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has estimated that the total cost of recovery for New York State alone will be around $33 billion.
We need everyone’s help. You can support National Urban League programs and our sustained efforts to help families whose lives have been devastated by Superstorm Sandy. For every $5,000 we raise we can help another family in need, like the Loncke and Fench families.
Finally, as we have just celebrated Thanksgiving this past week, I want to give thanks to all the government officials, relief organizations and volunteers who have responded to this crisis. And I want to commend those who have been affected for your faith in a better tomorrow and your determination to rebuild. As President Obama reminded us, "We’re Americans. When times are tough, we’re tougher. We put others first. We go that extra mile. We open our hearts and our homes to one another, as one American family."
Marc Morial is President and CEO of the National Urban League.