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The Heights Throughout The Century

For The Heights

Published: Sunday, November 4, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01

Confined to my dorm room in the midst of Hurricane Sandy’s whipping winds, mindlessly flipping back through old issues of The Heights, I came across a headline all too relevant to the current state of panic on the Boston College hilltop. On the front page of the Sept. 30, 1985 issue of The Heights, a bolded headline announcing “Students Celebrate While Hurricane Rages” caught my eye. Black and white photographs of fallen trees, flooded streets, and crowds of ridiculously dressed college students throwing mud outside what could only be one of BC’s Mods led me to read on.

Hurricane Gloria, which hit the New England Coast in September 1985, arrived at BC with 145 mph winds, calling for complete Friday class cancellations. Could it be that this 1980s storm was the last time that BC closed completely f==or weather-related causes? Further research told me yes.

As foreign and bizarre as the world seems to have been during 1980s, the attitude of this article almost completely mirrors that of BC students today. What do current BC students and 1985 BC alumni have in common? They both see a treacherous hurricane as an excuse to go out and party. A direct line from the 1985 article reads, “Despite Governor Michael S. Dukakis’ warning to stay indoors, many students disregarded the advice.”

Similarly, the evening before Hurricane Sandy, the entire BC student body received an email from John Tommaney, director of Emergency Management, ordering with explicit capitalized letters, “DO NOT go outside until the entire storm has passed.” Somehow though, students took this advice to mean, “Deck yourself out in cute foul weather apparel and venture out to that ‘Sandy Sunday’ party you heard was happening in the Mods tonight.”

Following the Gloria and Sandy warnings alike, two generations of students at BC collectively agreed that the impending storm would be too dangerous to venture through in order to get to class. Yet when it came to celebrating the extended weekend, the storm would be nothing more than an excuse to break out the rain boots for the journey and trek to the nearest party.

The 1985 Heights article reports that “A dirt hill in one Mod’s backyard became a mud slide as hundreds of students, covered in dirt, slid down the hill made slick by the rain.” Although several Mods lost electricity during Hurricane Gloria, and the Housing Department urged residents in the Mods to evacuate their apartments, which “had never been subjected to winds higher than 40 miles per hour,” students “did not consider the storm severe enough to leave the Mods.”

Current BC students must be on the same wavelength as their 1985 predecessors—in the midst of Sandy’s wrath, a group of hurricane-crazy students on Upper Campus decided to create a Slip-N-Slide outside of Kostka Hall. The less adventurous students celebrated the storm with movie marathons, blanket fort building contests, and card tournaments. (Of course, students were unable to study on their day off. Both libraries were closed, after all.)

Luckily, Hurricane Sandy spared the BC community our electricity this time around, whereas during Hurricane Gloria, several buildings on both Main and Newton campuses lost electricity due to downed power lines.

Another archived issue of The Heights, published the week following Hurricane Gloria, features an article titled, “Gloria Clean-Up Completed,” informing readers that “The main campus lost power for 45 minutes, five Mods lost their power until Monday, and part of Newton Campus was without power until Wednesday.” From Friday until Wednesday, the 1985 Newton-dwellers lived in darkness with dysfunctional running water and toilets.

Although the effects of Gloria were evidently more severe than the effects of Sandy on our campus today, in both scenarios, the BC community succeeded in effectively preparing for the storm. The 1985 article reads, “Buildings and Grounds filled all vehicles with gas, checked all emergency generators and checked all sump (water) pumps. They also notified different groups to prepare for Gloria, telling students to close shades and drapes and stay away from windows, and notifying Dining Services to be prepared to serve meals without power if necessary, warning the BC operator to be prepared to handle extra calls, asking Housing to tell students not to burn candles, and maintaining constant contact with the BC Police.”

Likewise, in preparation for Hurricane Sandy, students were consistently kept up to date with emails from the University regarding dining accommodations and suggested preparations for the storm. McElroy Commons’ On The Fly was nearly cleaned out of its bottled water supply, as students heeded the advice and purchased stockpiles of water (and bags of candy too, of course).

The similarities between students’ hurricane reactions now and in 1985 are epitomized with the opening line of the 1985 Heights article, which reads, “Strains of U2’s ‘Gloria’ were heard from dorms as BC residents prepared to face the long-awaited hurricane.”

I guess there’s something about a hurricane that makes college students inclined to create parodies of the hurricane’s name—for example, in the midst of last week’s storm, Twitter raged with images of Sandy Cohen from The O.C., “Sandy” lyrics from Grease, and of course famous lines from SpongeBob’s Sandy the Squirrel.

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