In a town like Hoboken, every day is different.
But when I look back at three years here, many memories tend to blend together.
The hundreds of council meetings ultimately become one memory.
The same can be said for other recurring events. Even St. Patrick’s Day — with or without a parade — will ultimately become a green memory of large groups of drunk twenty somethings walking the streets of Hoboken.
It’s a cycle. And about two and a half years into my job, I thought I had figured it out. I felt like I knew what I was doing, that I had a strong network of sources and pretty much a clear idea of the news in town on any given day.
This year, that changed. To be exact, it all changed on October 29, 2012. The cycle was broken.
You guessed it: Sandy.
I still remember the combination of nerves and journalistic excitement right before the storm hit. The PATH was shut down. The sky was gray and ominous. I shlepped through town with plastic bags full of bottled water, granola bars, batteries and other primary needs.
I — like everyone else — had no idea what was about to hit. But I knew I was about to prove my worth. Not just as a journalist, but also as a member of this community.
On Monday afternoon, even before the hurricane made landfall, the Hudson had already flooded the Lackawanna Terminal. The entire police force was out and about. A curfew was in effect. I had never seen Hoboken like this. Irene was a big news event, but this was entirely different.
As the storm hit and power went out that Monday night into Tuesday, I settled into my role and I figured out what to do and how to keep people informed.
No editor or schooling can really prepare you for an event like Sandy. Nobody will teach you how to post your story when you have no way to charge your computer. No one will give you directions on how to feed your editor information when you have no cell phone service. And who can really effectively advise you on keeping 50,000 people informed when the biggest hurricane of the region’s history is about to slam through their city?
What I remember most, is how hungry people were for information. On Twitter, on Facebook, through email and on the site — Hobokenites, as well as their loved ones, were constantly looking for answers.
At first, of course, people wanted to know the damage. How much of Hoboken was without power? How much flooding had there been?
In the powerless days that followed, the stories became more personal. From Yvette Miles at the ravaged Boys and Girls Club to Anastasia Kemper at her destroyed downtown store, everyone had a story to tell.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people from outside of Hoboken reached out as well. A surprising amount of parents emailed Patch, worried about their 20-something children who were stuck in apartments.
“My son lives on Jackson St., and is hunkering down in his apartment there,” one concerned reader wrote. “Any advice you can give me so that I can give to him, would be appreciated.”
I made it my priority to answer as many emails as I could with the limited resources I had during the direct aftermath of the storm. (If I didn’t answer you, I am sorry and I hope you got the information you needed.)
Through these emails, tweets and Facebook updates I really came to understand and know my readers in a way I hadn’t before. It was incredibly satisfying and rewarding to be useful to my readers and provide them with much needed information.
That is the goal of Patch. That is why I do my job. And without knowing, that was exactly what I had worked toward in the previous two and a half years in Hoboken. All those council meetings? All those St. Patrick’s Days? All those crime reports? They were all just leading up to the main event. At least, that’s what it felt like.
Sandy has passed. PATH trains are running again. We are all back to our regular schedules and we are back to caring about the same trivial matters that occupy our days. The council meetings are back into its regular routine and soon there will be another St. Patrick’s Day that will one day just be a memory of green shirts and drunk kids.
I am determined, however, to adapt the two main principles I learned this Fall.
1. Report every day like it’s Sandy and 2. Always make sure you have extra batteries with you, in case power goes out.
Thank you, Hoboken! Here goes year number 4.