“How are we going to recover from this?”
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PART 1: "I am stronger than the storm"
I attended the Child Helpline International Event at UN Headquarters where 17 year old Brianna Quigley, from New Jersey USA, read her statement on why she uses Child Helplines and what she does now. Her statement was different from anyone else: she was young, she was descriptive, and she spoke about the disaster that struck her hometown. Thanks, Brianna, for sharing your story with us here on VOY!
Your Name: Brianna Ruth Quigley
Your Age: 17 years old
Where are you originally from and where do you currently live?
I am originally from Union Beach, New Jersey in the U.S. and presently reside at the same location.
Could you tell us what natural disaster occurred in your country?
October 29th, 2012 Hurricane Sandy hit my wonderful, small, coastal town in the US. We thought we would be safe because we have driven through these storms before with minimal damage, but we underestimated Hurricane Sandy. No one in my town was unaffected.
Day 1 was a shocker. With no communication and no power available to anyone, my mom and I surveyed the damage and our flooded home. Even though we had major damage including 15 ½ inches of water in my home, there were others who experienced far worse. I felt I was in a horror movie and stuck on the pause button: homes were ripped off their foundations, in creeks and bays, blocks of homes missing, washers were on roofs of homes, cars in trees, personal belongings scattered on the streets, water was shooting in the air, and the stink of sewer and seawater filled the air. This changed our lives forever. Belongings disappeared or were destroyed. Memories were gone except for the ones you retain in your mind. It seemed the only proof of anyone’s existence was their body, no homes, no pictures, no documents. The main worry for everyone was “How are we going to recover from this?”
What happened to you right after the disaster? What did it feel like?
My parents did not hide anything from my sister and me (I was 16 at the time). I needed to grow up and have more responsibilities. I was scared, confused, and in disbelief. As our town waited for outside help, we needed to help ourselves. Days were full of gutting the remaining standing homes and meals were simple. At times I wanted to complain that I was hungry, but I didn’t because my parents were doing the best they could. Fear set in when looters were entering homes even if people still occupied the house. When the National Guard arrived, we went under Marshall Law for our own protection, but the fear was still there. Homes and businesses caught on fire, and days after the storm, some of the remaining homes started collapsing. Afraid this would happen to my home, I wouldn’t unpack, I couldn't sleep, and I was exhausted. Fear of the only remaining flood gate failing was always on my mind.
Was there something you did to help cope with the disaster?
I seemed to worry about everything even though I tried to keep busy by helping my parents and others in the community. My mom recognized something was wrong and went to speak to the Crisis Counselors at the FEMA Emergency set up at town hall. My mom reminded us we could always come to her or my dad. My mom recognized that I was experiencing survivors guilt by my words and actions. I felt bad because 75% of my friends lost everything. and my home was still standing with 52% damage. I finally called 2nd Floor Helpline on Day 11, after Hurricane Sandy. I wished I had done it sooner, someone to listen to, someone to speak with, and tell all my worries and fears, it was wonderful.
What is 2nd Floor Youth Helpline and did you become involved in the organization?
2nd Floor Youth Helpline is a confidential and anonymous helpline for young people who may call for help 24/7, 365 days a year. They offer counseling in areas pertaining to eating disorders and body image problems, substance use and abuse, cyber bullying, dating and relationships, mental health, sex and sexual problems, and other various health problems. Most recently, 2nd Floor has helped millions of young people with recovery and problems arising from natural disasters that have impacted the youth lives.
I am part of the 2nd Floor Youth Advisory Council which is a group of Youth Representatives. We are part of the mission to let people, teens and young adults know that help is available. Being part of the Teen Advisory Council gives me a chance to be the voice of hundreds, thousands, even millions of young people of the world. I can share my experiences and let others know they are not alone.