Check out Michael Vitez’s story on a student from University of the Arts – she lost just about everything in super storm Sandy, but her love of dance and music helped her get through. Read the full story here.
By Amanda Stone
MANASQUAN — When Manasquan resident Ian Gray heard Hurricane Sandy was going to make a direct hit on the Jersey Shore, he immediately headed home from attending college in Philadelphia. Though he is a senior at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, he still serves as a firefighter at Volunteer Engine Company No. 2 in Manasquan.
“Once I realized the storm was going to be bad, I prepared for the worst,” Mr. Gray said. Along with his fellow volunteer firefighters, Mr. Gray helped rescue residents during the height of the storm. “We were making rescues, evacuating people from houses,” Mr. Gray said. “We were in full dive gear. The water was up to our chests.” In the days following the hurricane, Mr. Gray had the opportunity to tour the beachfront while volunteering as a firefighter, seeing familiar sights now in ruin. “I saw my child and where I grew up … my first house on Brielle Road off its foundation,” Mr. Gray said. “That was the first thing that really hit me hard.”
He also saw friends and family members’ homes destroyed in the aftermath. After spending several days assisting in the clean up, Mr. Gray returned to school. Having the urge to continue helping out even though he was in Philadelphia, he decided to host a benefit concert. A prior teacher of his, Michele Kishita, also wanted to do something, as well. Together, the two crafted the Restore The Shore: A Benefit Concert For Hurricane Sandy Relief, which was held on Monday evening at the Gershman Hall in Philadelphia. There, more than 40 musicians and five bands played throughout the evening, including Mr. Gray, who is majoring in trombone music major and minoring in music education.“So many people came in and out all night,” Mr. Gray said.
Throughout the concert and in between musicians, photographs of the devastation and interviews with local emergency and borough officials played throughout the hall. “It really informed people out there how crazy some of our homes got hit,” Mr. Gray said. “A lot of people came up to me saying that they did not know how bad it was.” After receiving donations from dozens of people, the benefit helped to raise more than $1,000, all of which will be donated to the Manasquan Restoration Fund.
The fund will help residents and the borough rebuild.
In addition to the monetary donations raised during the concert, Mr. Gray also created an online registry in the weeks leading up to the event. Through the registry, more than $150 worth of gift cards were purchased for area residents and sent to the First Presbyterian Church to distribute. “Every dollar counts to getting the beach operational by this summer,” Mr. Gray said. “It is great to have so many peoples’ support.” Mr. Gray said he plans to host another benefit concert, including some of the same musicians from this week’s event, in the near future. That concert, he said, will be held somewhere along the Jersey Shore.
“We want to bring this benefit to the shore,” Mr. Gray said.
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