The aftermath of Irene: Katherine Mooney '13

Hurricane Irene blew up the East Coast and through Hightstown, NJ, on Saturday, August 27 and Sunday August 28. Unfortunately, once the storm subsided, Hightstown found itself facing significant damage from the flooding of Peddie Lake. Luckily, Peddie itself was spared serious damage, and when the call came to help the folks downtown start to clean up from the storm's wrath, many faculty, staff, and students responded. Below is one student's account of the cleanup efforts on Monday.

When I saw how flooded downtown Hightstown was on Sunday morning, I knew that the damage to the local businesses would be considerable. My mother told me that she volunteered me to help clean up local businesses when they sent out requests for help. Forrest [Davis '13] and I walked down to Molto Benne with some members of our families. I initially put on old sneakers thinking that would be enough, but my father encouraged me to put on rain boots. When we got down there, I was expecting it to not be a pretty sight, but as it turns out, it was so much worse than I had ever suspected. Ankle-deep in muck, the sight was almost devastating. The reason I say "almost" is because of the kind-hearted volunteers who didn't think twice about fishing soiled food out of the wreckage wearing nothing more than latex gloves. Still, it was not easy, both emotionally and physically. Molto Benne has built up a fabulous reputation this past year, even as a relatively new business. I've lived in Hightstown my entire life, and I've seen dozens of small businesses crumble; Molto Benne clearly stands out of this crowd. Thriving, warm and unique, it was heartbreaking to see such hard work on such a beautiful Hightstown staple be scraped out and thrown in trash bags. Very little could be salvaged, the sidewalk was overflowing with rotting furniture and bags of trash and we needed to stack and carry bags well down the street to keep a small lane of traffic for walking.

I went there thinking I would be there for maybe an hour, but Forrest, Emma [Watkins '14], my sister [Megan '14] and I stayed well past two and a half hours. It was past 8 when I got home, took a shower and ate dinner. My sister, Megan, put it well when she said she felt a sense of accomplishment last night. I agree with her, but the work is far from done. It may take a while to recover, but I have faith that Molto Benne will rebuild. As for the work last night, I've never been more grateful that I wore those heavy duty boots instead of old sneakers.