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published November 4, 2012
Thank you all for what you have done throughout this crisis.
As we always do, UFT members have once again risen to the occasion in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Our members time and again stand up to help our communities, and these last days have been no exception. Thousands of you have served admirably in evacuation centers across the city, providing comfort and solace to your fellow New Yorkers. Our members in the hospitals and visiting nurse services have been on the frontlines both during and in the aftermath of the storm. You are all a credit to your colleagues, your professions and your union.
As caregivers in schools, hospitals and child care programs, we will be at the forefront as our communities begin down the long road to recovery. As we do this important work, we must not only care for our students but also for each other. We have all been impacted by the storm. Many of us have lost homes; some of us have lost family or friends. At some schools, you will inevitably learn that you have lost colleagues.
But even as we confront these personal hardships, I know that each and every one of us will be there to see that our students and our school communities begin the difficult task of returning to normalcy. It will not be easy. In some places, like Coney Island, Breezy Point, the Rockaways and Staten Island, entire communities have been devastated. Both students and colleagues have in many cases lost homes, and it falls on us to provide what support — both in and out of the classroom — we can.
We got into this profession to help others and that is what we will do. Many of us have been impacted in our own lives by the storm, but we have always been there for our students and their families and in this difficult time, when we are most needed by them, I know that we will not only meet, but exceed what is expected of us. As we deal with our own hardships, we know that the students, parents and communities we serve need us, and we will do whatever it takes to see that their needs — emotional as well as educational — are met.
The return to school on Friday was chaotic, and it will only be more so as students resume classes tomorrow. Many of you endured hours-long journeys to get to school. Others arrived at your school buildings to find that there was no electricity or heat. In Far Rockaway, our members were confronted with a heartbreaking sight as children, many of whose families have lost everything, came to knock on their school doors, asking for food. In all of these and myriad other trying situations you did a phenomenal job.
Now, as we begin to move forward, we must continue to stay focused on what matters most: Seeing that our students are safe and that their needs are met. Many of us will inevitably have students who have experienced some form of loss, and they and our youngest students will particularly need our help and support as they try to make sense of what has happened. Many of our colleagues have also suffered tremendous losses and will need our support, too.
We will continue to work with the Department of Education to meet these and the other challenges with which we will be confronted tomorrow and beyond as the city and our communities continue the long process of recovery. The storm will have a lasting impact not only on those who suffered losses, but also on the tens of thousands of our students, as well as thousands of our members in the schools, who will have to be relocated to other school buildings for the year.
As we confront these challenges, it is a time for all of us to come together; recovery is our collective responsibility as New Yorkers. But make no doubt about it: Our role as caregivers is especially important. As the frontline staff in schools, hospitals and child care programs, we are relied upon by parents and families to guide their children and other loved ones through these difficult times. There will be many twists and turns, but I know that we will all be there for each other as well as the communities which we proudly serve — because that is what we always do.
I hope that you and your loved ones are safe. Remember that we need to care for each other, too. The union is reaching out and providing support to those members who may have lost loved ones and to the families of our members who lost their lives in the storm. We have counselors available to provide solace and guidance; we are also working to connect members in need with FEMA and are using the UFT Disaster Relief Fund to provide whatever support we can as we move forward and recover together.
The families of UFT members who lost their lives or were severely injured in the storm, UFT members who lost a family member, and UFT members whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged should complete the union’s Urgent Assistance Form at www.uft.org/sandy-help to help us determine how we can provide useful and meaningful assistance as soon as possible.
Thank you again for your tremendous response on Friday; all of New York City is in awe of you, and I am so proud of each and every one of you and humbled to be your representative and part of our union.
Be safe and thank you,
PS: UFT borough offices in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, as well as the union’s Manhattan and central offices at 52 Broadway, now have power and will be open to assist you on Monday.