Sunday, June 12, 2011

Week 3: Events, Events, Events!

My 2nd week of work was a busy one. One thing I’ve discovered about my internship that no day is exactly the same. Almost every day is contains an interesting meeting or event that breaks up the monotony of sitting at a desk.
On Tuesday, the government relations office had their all-day quarterly meeting. This came at the perfect time for me, as everyone reviewed what they are working on, which gave me a chance to get a better idea of what goes on in the office.
On Wednesday I went to the Food Research and Action Center’s annual benefit dinner with one of my supervisors. There was a really interesting panel about ending childhood hunger in America; it is pretty unbelievable that in a country of so much wealth there are still millions of children who go to bed hungry every night.
On Thursday Senator Claire McCaskill from Missouri came to speak at our office. I got the opportunity to shake her hand and introduce myself, which was a real honor. One of the things that surprised me was how relatable she was. I guess I expected politicians to be very formulaic in their speeches but she was incredibly down to earth. She spoke a bit about the relief efforts in Joplin in her home state. This hit really close to home for me.
I go to school at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, which was hit pretty hard by our own tornado about a week and a half before the semester was scheduled to end. I was fortunate in that my apartment was completely undamaged. Because we had no power, it took us a while to realize the extent of the storm. The day after, I went with some of my friends to try and volunteer. They were so overwhelmed with people though that they were just collecting information. Because I would be leaving town shortly after, I was unable to sign up. At the volunteer center they explained that in the days following a storm they usually have plenty of volunteers. It is in the weeks and months after that the real need begins- after the storm is no longer national news.
After that I drove through town and saw part of the damage. It was only a small section but it was incredibly hard to take in. There were telephone wires down everywhere, cars without tires and flipped outside, houses with walls or roofs, debris everywhere. It is a mental picture that I will never forget. Leaving Tuscaloosa after this was incredibly hard. I still feel guilty that I have only been able to donate money and not time. It is weird being here in DC, so removed from the rebuilding efforts. Senator McCaskill spoke about Joplin- and how the town is going to be hurting for a while- there are so many people without jobs, or a place to live, and so many businesses that need to get rebuilt.
However, she also spoke about the unique nature of Joplin, and from everything I’ve read, it seems like a special town. And as someone who has spent 3 years in Tuscaloosa, I know that it is more than capable of meeting the challenge it faces in the months, and years ahead.
This weekend I went back to my home in New Jersey for yet another event, my sister’s high school graduation. It was truly a Sunrise-Sunset moment watching her walk across the stage. I am so proud of her and I can’t believe we will both be in college next year!

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