We've all seen the ways that Hurricane Sandy affected Americans last week. Billions of dollars in property damage accrued, millions went without power and basic human needs like food and water, and over 100 lives were taken. But no story broke my heart and inspired me quite as much as Zoe Everett's.
The 19-year-old, a Rutgers student, was studying at school the night she got the call that changed her life.
Her parents, New Jersey natives Richard and Elizabeth, had been on their way home when strong gusts from the Hurricane knocked a tree down across their truck. Both her mother and father were killed — her little brothers, asleep in the back, survived.
Zoe rushed home to her three siblings (aged 17, 14, and 11), and immediately decided to put college on hold so that she could provide for them.
my family, my siblings, come first. I love them more than they could ever fathom and I am ready and willing to put any amount of weight on my shoulders to lessen the load on theirs. They are children who deserve to be kids and enjoy the life they have lying before them. I am going to be strong for them. I am going to be wise. I am going to be patient. But I won't be naive, and I won't say that I don't need help.
Lawyers are still sorting out the family's estate, and as such their finances have been put on hold. Zoe reached out to the organization Wish Upon A Hero, asking for $5000 to get her and her siblings through the first couple of months.
Instead, they received $56,900, a considerable amount more than Zoe had originally asked for! Their donation page (which you can find here) is chock-full of support: there are even other families who have offered the siblings homes or places to stay.
And while that show of support is, in and of itself, incredibly inspiring, it's the 19-year-old's strength that really gets me. I can't imagine how she's able to function through a loss like that, let alone take on the role of provider for her siblings.
Zoe and her siblings, in my book, are the true definition of heroes.