About the interviews

As we began to practice interviewing, we did a small interview with our class mates about the 2008 Presidential election which was only supposed to be 10minutes long. That interview was nerve racking. It was hard to ask the interviewee questions when the interviewer had no questions. Also it was challenging to bring the interviewee back on track to stay on topic. After we conducted these small interviews, we discussed as a class how we felt it went and we received feedback. This included tone, not seeming too brash with questions, and even eye contact.
Our next set of interviews were done amongst each other again but this time about the storm. We used the same questions we would ask out future interviewees for the project. This exercise allowed us to get used to the questions and pacing ourselves. Although most of our interviews never made it past an hour, we still felt it was good practice. Some people expressed feeling awkward simply because they weren’t sure if they had answered the question how the interviewer wanted etc. Others felt it was a bit hard to stay focused because we knew each other so it felt like they were having a conversation and not so much a formal interview.
When I finally conducted my interview I was confident. A few days earlier, I took a trip to the Bayshore area with Mary (who was a great help) and met the family if whom I would be interviewing. *Side note: Mary assisted most of the class with finding people to interview since she was from the area.* The family was Mary’s co-worker and they were very warm and welcoming – this conquered my fear of awkwardness due to the lack of a relationship with the interviewee. Mary and myself explained what the project was about an how the interview would conducted and that in the end we will be transcribing them just that they are aware that it will be formal. The night of my interview, I had the recording equipment and my phone as a back up. We had just received the recorders that evening maybe 2 hours before I had my interview and I just didn’t trust it. Meaning I wasn’t sure if it would record or die on me so I had my phone as a back up.
The interview went really well. Linda Gonzalez (my interviewee) answered all the questions even most before I had to ask them. The interview ran for about an hour and a half. Once the interview was over, I sighed a breath of relief knowing that it was done and it went well. I enjoyed the interview and looked forward to completing more interviews. I loved hearing the stories these people affected by the storm had to share.

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Meet the Crew!

Our group picture before the presentation at OHMAR.

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Once a Beach Front home now in the swamp

This home in Union Ave / Front St. in Union Beach was once facing the shore. It has been pushed so far back off the foundation it is in a swamp. It hasn’t been moved since I’ve been there.

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The Time is Here…

At this moment my classmates and I are sitting on the train on our way to the Oral History in the Mid-Atlantic Region conference in College Park, MD, to present on this project. There has been so much work done to get to this point and it is finally here.

We have learned all about oral history and how to create it. The last two weeks has been spent conducting our interviews and if I was nervous for that I don’t know how to describe my feelings about presenting in front of a large group of people.

As nervous as I am I am just as excited to be able to share our projects and even my own personal experience; even though I am terrified of getting emotional in front of a room of strangers. Sandy may have been months ago, but to me it is like it was yesterday. To this day driving around the neighborhoods I get choked up at how empty it all seems. Every time I hear the sound of rushing water I get a panicked feeling and the memories; of sitting on the stairs watching the water come into the house, come flooding into my head. We were in inches of water in less than five minutes and it wasn’t long before we were staring down at almost four feet of nasty dirty water. We watched as our possessions floated in and out of the rooms and as the furniture was picked up and flipped over in the water. We waited and waited for what seemed like forever for the water to go down and when it did we were left with a mess. I’m still not sure what was more traumatic, sitting in the house watching the water rise and dealing with the mess and loss of possessions or going out and realizing half the town and surrounding communities were gone. Houses were just taken away, ripped right off the foundation.

This is just a glimpse at my experience and I am getting emotional just thinking about it. Tomorrow I will be sharing more information with a number of strangers and I can only hope that my adrenaline will kick in and my brain won’t have time to process the emotion that comes along with the story and trauma.

Getting their voices heard…

It is hard to truly express how I am feeling about this entire process. While it was only two months ago that our project was born, it has been an adventure from day one. Not only was I able to meet five interesting and captivating classmates, but also a professor with an impressive resume and a passion for our project. As a resident of Port Monmouth my entire life, I felt a strong connection to Super Storm Sandy. While each of us is learning the process of interviewing and the methods of capturing the oral histories, it has been an enlightening and overwhelming process all at once.  Each classmate offers a different perspective and insight into the project.  Working together every step of the way, we have started down the road of capturing the stories of the Bayshore area residents. Utilizing my connections to my hometown, I have worked to set my classmates up with interviewees.  My family, friends and neighbors have the stories and my classmates and I are able to preserve their voice and include them in history. What we are doing is important and we are aware of how hard and trying this process is, but we are committed to creating an archive. We are committed to preserving the stories of how one day forever impacted the lives of these residents.

On the 21st of March 2013, a meeting was held in Port Monmouth entitled “The Port Monmouth Flood Project”.  Hearing of this meeting, I extended the invitation to my professor and my classmates.  While it was meant to be an informational meeting about a great deal of money allocated to the rebuilding process of Port Monmouth, it did run off track at times with questions and comments from understandably upset and emotional residents.  While it was interesting to experience this meeting as a resident of Port Monmouth my entire life, I found seeing the reactions of my classmates and professor to be more intriguing.  This meeting offered an insight into the raw emotion and anger of the residents and the frustrations they are still feeling as a result of Sandy.

With my professor speaking to the meeting coordinator ahead of time, we were given a few minutes to speak in front of the residents about our project.  With my professor introducing our project and handing the microphone off to me, I was given a chance to not only explain the project but also exhibit my passion for such an important process.  I was received well and even given a round of applause by the residents, with the coordinator remarking about how touching it was to see a young lady have so much to say about capturing history.  As a result of our brief presentation (if you will), we were approached by several residents who wished to be included in our project, offering both their stories and their pictures. It is quite hard to capture the emotion I was feeling as these residents approached me and knowing that I had the power to make their voices heard. I intend to include all of these residents, and whoever else wishes to be involved in our project.  While we have merely started down this road, my classmates and I are committed to our project and will work to make our interviewees heard.

The Beginning of an Oral History Project

I can say I have lived through three hurricanes while living here in America. Irene had a major impact on our area but not as damaging and devastating as Sandy. When I heard about the oral history project I immediately signed up. I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into but I knew it involved people, the hurricane and being a part of documenting it. I got involved in the project because I know Hurricane Sandy had a major impact on the state. Once I got to the class and was told what was expected I was a little apprehensive but still excited nevertheless. Tackling the process of where we should interview was the most intriguing and tedious process at the same time. I know it’s sort of a contradiction but I’m a walking contradiction myself so hey! Anyways, I learned the difference between the Parkway and the Turnpike thanks to my classmates. The second part of creating the grounds for the project was what we are looking for in terms of diversity of the project. I remember finding out that one of my family’s favorite spots (Keansburg) was on the lower socio economic scale whereas, me as a tourist would have never imagined it to be so. Brittany and Mary being from the area contributed a great deal with offering insights about the towns socio economics, those affected by the storm, and other various information as well as compelling stories. So far, I’ve thought the hardest part of the project was coming up with the questions but now I am beginning to think differently as we move into the interviewing stage. My next post will speak about the interviewing process. Keep looking out for more posts!