Ithaca College students and families are still picking up the pieces left by Hurricane Irene two weeks ago.
Senior Joshua Turk, who is from Vermont, saw his house washed away by the storm, and said he was reminded how everything can change instantly.
“I was in the house in Vermont when Irene hit,” he said. “In a matter of hours, you go from getting ready to come back to school the next day to watching as your house and yard disappear and hang over a 50-foot wide river.”
Turk said it is impossible to prepare for a sudden storm like Irene.
“You just go on autopilot,” he said.
Though Ithaca saw little damage, other states and some parts of New York experienced Irene in much greater force.
Locally, one area hit hard was the close-knit farming community of Schoharie, N.Y., located just two hours from Ithaca. It’s also the home of Kelly Gannon, an assistant soccer coach at the college who is launching an initiative to collect relief items to help those in her county get back on their feet.
Gannon remembers the ear-piercing sound of the flood evacuation alarms — a harsh intrusion on the daily lives of the Schoharie residents. She said her hometown is still suffering.
“There is no water,” she said. “No electricity. Sewage is becoming a health hazard in the area.”
Sophomore Chauncey Jones is a resident of Southern Vermont, which was also struck by Irene. While Jones’ house sits on a hill and was untouched, all roads leading up to her house were affected.
“There were a couple of our friends in my town,” Jones said. “Their houses were either gone or damaged. There is a river right next to their house that pushed trees up into it.”
The college helped some students affected by Irene by allowing them to move into their rooms earlier than the original date.
Gannon will also be collecting donations from the college community to help residents of her hometown go back to their normal lives.
She said the bins for donations will be placed across campus within the next week or two.
Items they wish to collect for the relief effort include personal hygiene items, cleaning supplies, clothing, baby formula and diapers, Gannon said.
“Always be helping people because you never know when you are going to need their help,” she said.
Gannon said the hurricane showed her nothing should be taken for granted.
“They say everything can change in the blink of an eye,” she said. “You never know what is going to happen. One day you have everything and now these people, the little bit that they had, they completely lost. They have no homes.”
Gannon said she decided to appeal to the college community because she has confidence in the college’s ability to stand by each other during rough times.
“I was a student here,” Gannon said. “Now I am an employee of the school. I know how the community can pull together over an issue.”