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Surviving Sandy

Surviving Sandy
This image, taken by Brian Wilton '97, shows the extensive flooding around Lake Como in Belmar, N.J.

Superstorm Places Alumni in Position to Help, Thrive and Count Their Blessings

On the late-October night that Hurricane Sandy’s swells initially pummeled New Jersey, New York and much of the East Coast’s shorelines, Brian Wilton ’97 slept on the floor of a Belmar, N.J., police station in his wet suit that was still damp from the evening’s labor.

A lieutenant of the Belmar Water Rescue Team, Wilton and his crew quarreled with floodwaters, debris, downed power lines and trees, and hurricane force winds to make 37 saves that night. Over the course of the next three days, the rescue team saved nearly 200 people, pulling residents – from an 18-month-old baby to 90-plus-year-old women – from houses surrounded and submerged in four to five feet of water. “That first night, there were spots where I was almost chest-deep in water, which is really impossible to move around in,” says Wilton, an attorney when not saving countless lives. 

As dawn arrived, Belmar residents who braved the storm realized the ocean waters moved the shoreline six blocks inland. Sections of boardwalk – some 20 feet long with benches still attached – had been relocated, along with many other objects, in the night. The rescue calls soon picked up, continuing non-stop for the next few days. Wilton says the sheer force of the storm isn’t understandable until you see the destruction yourself. 

“Until I pulled up and saw it with my own eyes, four or five feet of water on our main street, more than a mile from the ocean, I didn’t appreciate how bad it was,” he says. “That’s when I realized the magnitude of the storm.”

Sandy arrived with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, leaving hundreds of thousands to pick up the pieces, including more than 6,000 University of Scranton alumni residing in the storm’s flood areas. In the days and months following, countless Royals embraced their alma mater’s refrain of “being men and women for others,” assisting neighbors, friends and often strangers get back on their feet. 

To read their stories, click on our "Related Articles" links below.

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