Reflecting on Hurricane Sandy, Dr. Shaun McKay Urges Togetherness Amid Upheaval

Dr. Shaun L. McKay

October 12, 2020

Millions of Americans are out of work and many are coping with social distancing, remote work, layoffs, and other issues. Yet Americans have faced adversity before. From economic downturns to natural disasters, Americans have proven their resilience year-after-year. That’s why Dr. Shaun L. McKay is using the lessons he learned as president of Suffolk County Community College to advise leaders and communities amid the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, economic turmoil, and political upheaval.

In 2012, Dr. Shaun McKay, then President of Suffolk County Community College (New York), led his college in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. While hurricanes are common in the Southeastern United States, storms of Hurricane Sandy’s magnitude rarely land so far north. Even with ample warning, Hurricane Sandy caught many Long Island and the entire Eastern seaboard/coastline off guard.

“We worked hard to prepare our college, including students, faculty, and staff, for Hurricane Sandy. And we took preparation seriously. Still, it’s hard to fully understand the impact of a hurricane if you haven’t lived through one,” Shaun McKay stated. “In many ways, the on-going pandemic is similar. Experience imparts knowledge and our scientists and medical experts need to remain at the forefront as we combat this virus.”

According to Shaun McKay, Unity is Vital for Communities

Hurricane Sandy was the strongest hurricane of the 2012 season, as well as the deadliest and most destructive. In total, Hurricane Sandy inflicted nearly $70 billion in economic damage. Much of the damage occurred in the New England region, which rarely sees such strong hurricanes. For Suffolk County Community College and then college President Dr. Shaun McKay, the hurricane was in many ways a first.

“A storm of that magnitude was essentially unprecedented for the region.” Shaun McKay said. “The College’s Emergency Response Team was well-prepared, but for many, recovering from a hurricane was an entirely new experience. We quickly set up resources for affected students and staff.”

The College and Dr. Shaun McKay worked with local businesses and other organizations to raise funds and resources. Many faculty and staff found their computers ruined in the aftermath of the storm. Water damage left textbooks unusable for students. In many cases, the College was able to provide replacements and relief funds of up to $500 for affected community members.

“We helped a lot of students and staff. The community as a whole stepped up and provided many of the resources,” said Shaun L. McKay. “We made sure aid got to those in the most need. Hurricane Sandy was an important reminder of how vital togetherness is. We needed everyone to come together then, and we need everyone to come together now.”

Many Americans are turning to the government, local charities, churches, family, and others for support amid the on-going turmoil. According to Feeding America, food banks distributed 20% more food in March 2020 versus an average month. Besides COVID-19, communities are reeling with tough questions surrounding equality, race, elections, and more. Dr. Shaun L. McKay notes that these are difficult times but together communities can rise to meet the challenges.