The reactions on Monday afternoon were loud and they were immediate. From my perch in Blue State, I could see three different tables simultaneously open Martha Highsmith and Maria Bouffard’s email about the snow day. The room all but erupted in cheers; people closed their books and headed off to liquor stores to stock up on storm provisions. I immediately posted a flippant Instagram. Everything was perfect.
Enormous storms at Yale, and particularly blizzards like Nemo and Juno, seem like a blessing to the overworked campus. Some of my fondest memories from sophomore year involve trekking up to the Divinity School quad and sledding so vigorously that I somehow wound up slightly frostbitten and mysteriously bruised. Being able to bask in one another’s company in this beautiful place, with some of the pressure of classes and homework temporarily removed, is an enormous gift.
But Monday, the feeling of elation with which we greet these natural disasters felt a bit out of place when compared with the feelings of dread they inspire in the greater community. Juno might not have lived up to its hype in New Haven, but had it, the storm would have devastated the area. At the same time that I was gleefully predicting class cancellations, my mother was texting me anxiously to make sure I had a battery-powered flashlight and had charged my electronics in case of a power failure.
Or thinking back to Nemo: it’s hard to disentangle my vivid memories of making snow angels with my suitemates from the knowledge that five people in Connecticut alone died as a result of that storm. In Massachusetts, 400,000 people lost power. In New York, the police needed to go on expeditions to rescue ambulances that were trapped on the Long Island Expressway.
None of this is to deny that getting to play hooky from school for two days is anything less than great. Even during Hurricane Sandy, when I didn’t leave my room for three days, my suite holed up in the fortress that is Yale and binge-watched Pretty Little Liars. I think it solidified our friendship for the remainder of the year. But it’s easy, swaddled in the safe and impenetrable arms of Yale’s campus (and backup generator), to forget the fact that storms like the one that hit us yesterday (or, well, didn’t really) can deeply affect and trouble the lives of those living very close to us.
As just one example, I know a lot of classmates expressed dissatisfaction at the fact that the dining halls and libraries would be closed for at least the early parts of Tuesday. As we stood in line to get brown paper bags full of provisions, more than one person expressed incredulity that at an institution like Yale, we were being asked to get by for two meals with just granola bars and small pre-wrapped sandwiches. But we ought to remember that the dining halls, like the libraries, like almost every single facility we make use of, are staffed by people. And more often than not, the men and women who make our meals possible have to travel some distance to get here; this storm had the power to damage their homes, to make their drives or bus rides to Yale treacherous (Governor Malloy issued a travel ban) and to force their children to stay home from school. None of us should begrudge them the need to stay safe at home.
As normal life resumes, I think it’s important that we take some time to remember the precautions Yale takes to make sure that, when these storms hit, we have the luxury of experiencing them as no more than a blip on our radar. Even during Sandy, which cost the country about $50 billion, Yale never lost power. On Monday, amid increasingly hysterical national warnings of record-breaking blizzards, the dining hall staff took the time to compile pretty plentiful goodie bags (I honestly think the breakfast I ate in my suite on Tuesday morning was more filling and nutritional than the breakfast I eat on a typical weekday).
Master Marvin Chun sent Berkeley College an email telling us that members of staff spent Monday night on campus to ensure that everyone got enough food. Men and women were shoveling and plowing the snow all day; they were still at it when I fell asleep, and they were at it when I woke up. Juno was fun, and there was never a moment, either in this storm or in any of the preceding ones, when I felt anything less than completely safe. And as recognition of that, I’d invite everyone to take a minute to express their gratitude to someone who ensured that it could be enjoyable and not frightful.
Victoria Hall-Palerm is a senior in Berkeley College. Her column usually runs on alternate Wednesdays. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.