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Weathering the Storm

An Anniversary Remembrance
(A tribute to my mentor, Morton Silverstein, Former Head of News & Public Affairs Channel 2 CBS News)

By d.b. Roderick

While Hurricane Sandy affected a specific region of the United States, the lessons learned from natural disasters know no boundaries. Thus, we hope this update and reminiscences on the video series produced by IIL Media (a division of International Institute for Learning, Inc.) at the time, will not only inspire but also raise awareness about the importance of crisis strategy, change, and risk management for business survival.

A decade has passed since Superstorm Sandy was born on October 11, 2012, off the West Coast of Africa in the vicinity of the Cabo Verde Islands. She crossed the Atlantic, gathering strength over the warm waters of the Atlantic, then hit the Caribbean islands with devasting winds.  Eventually, turning northeast and, upon reaching the waters off the coast of New Jersey, merged with a fast-moving southeastward cold air mass, sending it westward. Sandy made landfall in the coastal town of Brigantine, New Jersey, on the evening of October 29th, 2012. She measured more than 900 miles in diameter and caused more than $70 billion in damages in the United States. Sandy is considered one of the costliest natural disasters in U.S. history.

Did you know hurricanes are born off the west coast of Africa near the vicinity of the Cabo Verde Islands? They’re a group of small islands, colonized by the Portuguese in 1462.  There the winds and warm water currents off the African coast nurture the birth of tropical waves that move from the western coast into the eastern Atlantic Ocean. Finding favorable wind currents and warm seas, the tropical waves travel over 7,000 miles to the Caribbean Islands. From there, they may head into the Gulf of Mexico or turn and head northeast up the east coast traveling as far north as Maine, where they eventually die in the cold waters of the Atlantic.

Ironically, my grandparents were born in Praia, Carbo Verde.  Following the same route of those tropical waves, they found their way to America. They landed in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and started a small fishing business.  New Bedford, is a former whaling port, and a literary setting for the works of Author Herman Melville, who wrote the acclaimed American classic, “Moby Dick.”  I went fishing with my grandfather on many occasions in those same ocean waters where the “Great White Whale” and hurricanes roamed, and white cap seas pounded the shores.  This is where my sense of “wonder and wow,” was inspired by my grandfather’s tall tales of Cabo Verde, the birthplace of hurricanes and his weathered brown hands, that were as soft as fine leather, but strong.  My grandfather’s fishing boat was lost to a lesser storm.  She lays somewhere at the bottom of the cold Atlantic coast of New Bedford, where lesser hurricanes die.

Weathering the Storm became a series of short narratives about the impact of Hurricane Sandy on small business owners and entrepreneurs, like my grandfather, Joseph Roderick. My film and television career that led to this series was born in the network television news documentary unit of CBS News on 57th Street. Back then, I had an office down the hall from my idols Walter Cronkite, Eric Sevareid, Mike Wallace, and Roger Mudd.  I was mentored by acclaimed Documentary Filmmaker, Morton Silverstein. His work signature was defined as “giving a voice to unheard stories.” I embraced that principle, and this became my signature as well.

After several weeks of searching, the IIL Media Team found a dozen willing and eager storytellers from New Jersey to Massachusetts. They were willing to share their compelling stories of how they did or didn’t Weather the Storm on October 29th, 2012. I wanted to show the stark contrast between how some struggled to save their businesses, while others couldn’t.  One such story was about a local Pizzeria in a Staten Island neighborhood. It was a place where community members gathered weekly for pizza and to connect with their neighbors and friends.  Tragically the Pizzeria did not survive the Storm. Still, a few of his customers took refuge on the restaurant’s roof when an 8-foot storm flooded the streets below.

A year later, we decided to revisit those business owners to see how they were doing. We were glad to discover most had fully recovered, but some, like the Staten Island Pizzeria, didn’t. The owner’s limited insurance was not enough to help him rebuild. The restaurant and community meeting place are no more. This and other stories became a paradigm for how many, but not all, resourceful small business owners finding a way to manage the risk and were “Weathering the Storm.”

“Days of Wonder”
“Taking you to places you’ve never been, introducing you to people you’ve never met, and telling you stories you’ve never heard.”

Stories on weathering the storm

Keeping the faith     Sandy comes calling HQ      The Last Sail     WTS update

d.b. Roderick

d.b. Roderick

Senior Producer, Director of IIL Media (a division of International Institute for Learning, Inc.)
Former NBC News Senior Producer

Disclaimer: The ideas, views, and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of International Institute for Learning or any entities they represent.

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