Hurricane Sandy: Recovery In Many Ways Continues For Those Impacted

English: Ellis Island, seen from Liberty Island
English: Ellis Island, seen from Liberty Island (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ellis Island is in recovery from Hurricane Sandy

Have you ever visited Ellis Island? If not, put it on your “bucket list.” Ellis Island is part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument located in Upper New York Bay, the original island belongs to New York State and the part of the island added after 1834 belongs to New Jersey.  Ellis Island operated as an immigration station from 1892 until 1954.

The United States Public Health Service personnel who served on Ellis Island were responsible for visually inspecting the immigrants, most particularly the third class passengers. 12 million immigrants were processed through Ellis Island, many like our associate’s grandfather-in-law were held for a longer period of inspection. In his case the ship’s manifest noted: Held for special inspection – he “squints.” Perhaps they thought he had trachoma. The year was 1909 and he was 18 years old.

In October 2012, the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy submerged both Ellis Island and Liberty Island. According to the National Park Service website:

On October 29, 2012, flood waters from Hurricane Sandy covered 75% of Liberty Island and almost all of Ellis Island, flooding basements of all buildings with the exception of the Statue and Monument. Winds and flooding from the storm destroyed most of the infrastructure on both islands including; electric, water, sewer, HVAC systems, phone systems, security systems, and radio equipment. The visitor security screening facilities at Battery Park and Liberty State Park were destroyed. The main passenger pier and the work/emergency pier on Liberty Island were severely damaged, as were the perimeter walkway and railings around the island.

Ellis Island began to welcome park visitors on October 28, 2013, but repairs continue to be made, it is in recovery.

Sandy impacted more than infrastructure…

When Hurricane Sandy made landfall the physical devastation of property was shocking, but as we wrote on October 30, 2012, while the physical damage was visible…surviving the experience was the first step, dealing with anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression either personally or assisting a loved one was going to be the real road to recovery.

This week USA Today published an article which outlined Sandy’s impact on mental health issues: Sandy left mental health issues in its wake. Data research indicates that more residents in the 10 New Jersey counties which were most impacted by Sandy are seeking help for behavioral health issues like sleep problems, anxiety, depression, alcohol and substance abuse, and PTSD.

Healthcare Quality Strategies, Inc. examined Medicare claims one year prior to Sandy and one year post Sandy. Keep in mind, this review only speaks to the impact felt by Medicare recipients (mostly senior citizens).

  • Depression screenings were double in the year after Sandy for the 10 counties impacted by the storm.
  • Alcohol and substance abuse were up 8 percent.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder was up nearly 8 percent.
  • Anxiety disorders were up 5.8 percent.

Some closing thoughts…

Ellis Island for many was considered the Island of Hope, but for some the Island of Tears.  Depending on which Immigration Act was being enforced at the time one arrived you could be turned back for a variety of reasons.  According to the Philadelphia Inquirer (

The 1891 Immigration Act, in effect when Ellis Island opened, excluded “all idiots, insane persons, paupers, or persons likely to become a public charge,” as well as those with “loathsome diseases.” It also excluded entry to felons, polygamists, and those whose tickets were bought by others (as a way of avoiding contract labor). The 1917 Immigration Act made the list of exclusions more specific and excluded the mentally or physically defective, the insane, alcoholics, and persons with epilepsy, tuberculosis, or contagious diseases. The protocol changed after the 1924 immigration law, which instituted a visa system, and it has changed many times since then.

Today Ellis Island serves as a teaching resource, historical museum, research facility…a place to reflect and now a place going through a physical recovery and it will once again be an Island of Hope.

For Sandy victims and there are many, New Jersey Health Commissioner Mary O’Dowd participated in a roundtable discussion on post-Sandy stress. Again USA Today reported on O’Dowd’s observations: ‘If left untreated, those concerns can turn into problems that cause physical ailments, cause families to break apart and potentially increase instances of domestic violence and child abuse.”It reinforces we need to continue on our path of long-term recovery,” she said.’

Here’s to long term recovery.

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