I grew up in West Georgia, in a region sometimes called Hurricane Alley (and Tornado Alley). I've always considered myself to be a veteran of bad weather. I rode out many a storm in my grandparents' cellar, among the spiders, pot belly stove, and library-tidy rows of colorful canned vegetables and fruits. It was actually kind of fun then and things usually returned to normal fairly quickly after the storm passed.
But for the past two weeks in my Northern New Jersey community, I assure you there has been nothing fun about Hurricane Sandy. Much of New Jersey has been devastated by Hurricane Sandy and the merciless toll it has taken on our homes, possessions and, significantly, our collective peace of mind. It's humbling to go from a reasonably comfortable existence overnight to wondering how your family's most basic needs will be met, even on a short term basis: staying warm, a nutritious meal, and please don't overlook the emotional and physical benefits of a hot shower! And, we only lost power and services like cable and internet. Many of our neighbors further south along the Jersey Shore and east in NYC lost so much more in the storm surge and flooding, and they'll be facing these losses for months and possibly even years to come.
What struck me during this weather emergency is how gracious and supportive people have been to one another through this crisis. Within the GSK family, this has been evident and touching in so many ways. As a company, we have a culture of giving, but normally, our giving is focused externally. This time, the need has come from within, and our company and people have responded readily and generously.
Thankfully, all of our employees in the New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia area are safe. Our Parsippany, New Jersey office is just coming back to life after almost two full work weeks due to the storm and its damage. Many of our colleagues have lost or damaged homes and cars, with many continuing to struggle with the prolonged loss of power, meaning no heat, water or a place to keep and prepare their food safely.And, there are the never ending lines for gas for cars and generators.
In the aftermath of the storm, GSK is providing much needed financial assistance to our employees and affected communities. Our colleagues have reached out and offered whatever they have to share with others. In fact, so many stepped forward in our Parsippany offices that a spreadsheet had to be created just to keep up with all the kind offers. These ongoing gestures of kindness and understanding range from a warm shower to a hot meal and a spare bedroom, from internet use and charging of electronics like cell phones and laptops, to a ride to get gas or just some normal conversation and companionship.
Employees at our sister site in Pittsburgh, PA, have loaded and driven three full van and truckloads of generators, gas, paper products, flash lights and anything else they thought we could use to help bring comfort and some semblance of normalcy to our traumatized lives. Personal expressions of concern and encouragement have traveled from around the globe to help warm our souls, even if our surroundings are still quite chilled. And our leaders have mandated we put safety and family first, ahead of work responsibilities, and focus on our recovery. Work can wait, they said.
The lights are slowly coming back on; damaged roofs are being repaired; refrigerators are being restocked and many of us are enjoying hot showers for perhaps a little longer than usual. I certainly won't be taking these basic rituals of everyday life for granted anytime soon. But more importantly, I won't be taking for granted the many people who have stepped forward, even when they were struggling themselves, to help us all recover from Sandy.
You can read more about GSK's support for hurricane victims here.
Photo courtesy of the American Red Cross.