Many public officials spent an inordinate amount of time in front of the cameras during the various episodes of Hurricane Sandy. Those in north Jersey saw New York City Mayor Bloomberg from the outset. New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo took the spotlight and engaged in “photo-ops” throughput the ordeal. United States President Barack Obama toured New Jersey’s hardest hit areas, providing “sound-bites” along the way. However, the person who managed to capture the essence of the event and control the flow of the cameras was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
Governor Christie demonstrated leadership at a time when New Jersey was desperate for a leader. As the days and weeks unfold, the death toll will rise as more bodies are certain to be found in the ruins of destroyed homes and neighborhoods. At that point, the glowing spirit of leadership may dissipate. Nevertheless, during the week in which most New Jerseyans were lost souls, Chris Christie demonstrated a calming force who eased the despair of many who were on the brink of hopelessness.
Many others, including Congressmen, State Legislators, Mayors, Council members and other public officials were on the scene as well. However, the media will remember Chris Christie, who began campaigning for 2013 many months ago.
The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy will follow us. Many New Jerseyans will not be able to return to their homes for weeks or months. Many small business owners have lost their livelihood, and will depend on State and federal agencies for survival. Although it is too early to predict the long term impact that the event will have on the economy, it is evident that the negative effects will be extensive.
The most difficult part of the ordeal is ahead of us.
New Jerseyans demonstrated that they can come together during a crisis. The Governor serves as the role model, and the citizens are willing to follow. Now, the challenge of rebuilding and returning to normal will be the major test that we, as a State, will face. Helping those who are now homeless, or have lost their valuable possession, or most tragically have lost loved ones may be insurmountable challenges. Yet, we, as a State, have been taught by example that, rather than give up, we must rise to meet those challenges.
Dr. Salvatore Pizzuro, a disability policy specialist, holds a doctorate in Developmental Disabilities from Columbia University and an advanced degree in Disability Law from New York Law.