“Breaking Dawn” is a satisfying but an unforgettable conclusion

In the final movie of the popular romance-fantasy Twilight franchise, “Breaking Dawn: Part 2,” viewers see that young lovestruck teenager Bella Cullen (Kristen Stewart) is forever changed. After giving birth to a half-vampire, half-human baby while still in human form, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) had to change her when he realized he’d lose her otherwise.

This Bella is beautiful, strong and fiercely protective of not only the Cullens, but also her new family. It seems that Stewart, whose acting is commonly compared to that of a stuttering robot – and this refers to viewers’ frustration with her inability to exhibit a wide range of emotions – has graduated to a functioning human. Congratulations.

Bella’s child, Renesmee, or Nessie, is introduced to Twilight fans, played by newcomer Mackenzie Fay, who does bear a great resemblance to her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Cullen. Bella soon finds out that Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) has imprinted on Renesmee, meaning he has chosen her as a life mate. Suffice it to say, this immediately breaks apart the love triangle that many Twilight fans have obsessed over for the years.

Renesmee, it turns out, has the gift of transferring her thoughts and memories to other people through touch. Also, because of her unique DNA, she ages more quickly than the normal child.

Stewart and Fay have a surprisingly believable chemistry, and Pattinson plays the part of a protective and devoted father well.

One day, a vampire from a nearby clan spots Renesmee playing with Taylor and Bella, and she mistakes the child for a dangerous Immortal Child. The witness then rushes to Italy to inform the Volturi, the powerful vampire government run by the oldest vampires to exist, of this “crime.”

Centuries ago, it became illegal to change children into vampires after one child had gone on a killing rampant, incapable of controlling its new thirst. The Volturi stepped in to get rid of this vampire-child and its “parent,” or the one who turned it.

When the Cullens realize that the Volturi will stop at nothing to put an end to this perceived crime, they start planning. Preferring to avoid war, Carlisle (Peter Facinelli), the head of the Cullen clan, decides they must recruit other vampires from the Denali, Irish and nomadic clans as witnesses to attest to Nessie’s existence as a hybrid, not as an Immortal Child.

The movie finishes with an epic battle between the Volturi and vampires and their werewolf allies. Thanks, Jacob.

There’s one thing in this movie that needs praise: The choreography and cinematography for the battle scenes were masterfully done and fast-paced. Who knows? Maybe the boyfriends and husbands who were dragged to the movie even liked these final scenes.

With the gathering of vampires from across the globe, a lot of minor characters show up in this film, and it’s actually sad that they got little screen time. A witty and seductive vampire played by Lee Pace might have been an American Patriot back in the day, and he is actually funny, delivering his humorous lines without causing the audience to flinch. He woos Kate (Casey LaBow), a member of the Denali clan, and their love connection is established in just a few scenes. Not to say anything against Bella and Edward’s connection, which started when she saw him eyeing her angrily in biology class…

Some characters shine through among the mediocre acting that took up most of the movie. Dakota Fanning was brilliantly deviant as the sadistic vampire Jane, and actor Michael Sheen, who played head vamp Aro, was sufficiently creepy and overwhelmingly gleeful at the possibility of inflicting punishment on the Cullens.

It’s a disappointment that the special effects of “Twilight” haven’t changed since that fateful day when Pattinson scaled up a tree with Stewart (read: spider monkey) on his back. Baby Renesmee was composed through computer-generated imagery, but unlike the success that CGI had with the werewolves in previous films, little Renesmee ended up looking cute but ultimately unrealistically composed.

The “Twilight” book and movie franchise does not have the same sentimental value as, say, “Harry Potter,” which people of all ages grew up with. So the ending of “Breaking Dawn: Part 2″ was expected, but not seen as monumental.

Disenchanted, but not giving up

Want to be as happy as this kid? Join The Mirror. That’s Luigi DiMeglio, by the way; he’s the chief copy editor. See? Copy editing can be fun. Credit: Loan Le/The Mirror

I’ve always been ambitious, particularly with journalism.

When I arrived at Fairfield University, I knew I wanted to major in journalism. I joined The Mirror, the student newspaper, right off the bat, and eagerly approached the editors with my ideas and comments. The entertainment editor seemed to notice my willingness to take part in the newspaper and he took me under his wing. I learned all about layout and news design from him, and then picked up more skills from my journalism courses. I rose from a contributing writer to assistant entertainment editor, and then, as a sophomore, I became the director of the entertainment section. Using the skills that I picked up freshman year, I tried my best to establish a standard for the entertainment section. I attempted eye-catching designs and longer feature pieces that tested the writer’s skills.

Examining past issues of The Mirror, I consider our recent issues to be so much more comprehensive and aesthetically pleasing than the previous years. We’ve been getting praises from administration, students and faculties, and they are saying the same thing. We’re doing a great job so far. I can accurately say that the editors at The Mirror are incredibly humbled by and proud of their work. Even though we complain about our miserable lives in the office on Tuesday nights/Wednesday mornings, we love working at the newspaper. Honestly, why else would we subject ourselves to torture every week. We can’t say it’s because of the pay, because, right now, we have no pay. That’s right. We have no external motivation to keep doing this, besides the fact that we love this. We love the environment. We love putting together a paper within 24 hours.

Now, that I’ve been executive editor/vice president of The Mirror for almost a year, I’ve noticed how much my attitude toward everything has changed. Instead of being preoccupied by my own success, I now worry about the legacy of The Mirror. What’s going to happen after our staff is gone? Honestly, I want to view newcomers to The Mirror as potential Mirror editors, and yet, right now, I don’t have much faith. I’m being honest. Maybe a bit harsh, but I’m not trying to distort reality. The journalism bug is not biting the writers.

At some point in the beginning of the semester, I wanted to just give up on journalism. Martin (the editor-in-chief) and I announced a news writing workshop for beginners and for people who just want to refresh their writing skills. I eagerly trekked from Dolan Hall to The Mirror office in the rain. I couldn’t wait to see who’d show up.

No one came.

This was utterly disappointing. I couldn’t believe that students could be so disinterested in journalism. I thought, “What’s the point?”

But I’m definitely not the type of person to give up. My mom and dad would seriously kick my ass because they didn’t raise a pessimistic daughter. They’ve raised a warrior.

So, I constantly ask myself: Why?

My awesome colleagues also contributed to reasons why people don’t often choose the newspaper as their first priority at Fairfield University.

Reasons

  • Being a part of The Mirror is just not worth it.

Talk about a stab in the heart. It’s not worth it to gain real-world experience in the field of journalism? It’s not worth it to hone your writing so that you can communicate effectively? It’s not worth it to learn design and editing skills from experienced editors? Oh yeah, it’s definitely not worth it.

C’mon. Picture this: On your résumé, you can put that you’ve written over 60 articles for an award-winning college newspaper throughout your college career. You can say that you’ve designed this and that. You can say that you were able to balance working in a newsroom and typical college workloads. You can say, to potential employers, that you’ve put together a newspaper from scratch.

  • There’s no incentive in writing for The Mirror.

See the first answer. But there are plenty of incentives. You can get paid, for example, if you’re consistent with your work and apply to be a staff writer or an editor. You get a lot of experience. You get to meet people who are passionate about journalism. You are more than likely to get extra credit in journalism courses. You can impress your peers, professors and family. The list goes on and on. Search for what you believe to be the right incentive and believe that it’s enough to get you involved with this newspaper.

  • I’m just not good enough.

Bullshit. You have something to give us. We know you do, and we want you to give us everything that you’ve got. Do you have an opinion that you just want to get out there? Write for the opinions section. Think you know politics? Impress us with your expertise. Do you have the uncanny ability to spot errors? Copy edit the absolute shit out of our shit. We need your help.

  • It requires too much work.

Don’t even start with me. That’s a cop-out, and it’s a cop-out that we absolutely abhor. I don’t know, but maybe students forget that the editors at The Mirror are students, too, and have their own share of vigorous workloads. And yet, they still manage to come out here and crank out an issue each week. I can honestly say that managing The Mirror and school work is doable. You just have to look hard at your schedules. Instead of, say, taking a two-hour nap when you could be writing an article, take a 15-minute nap, and then work on Mirror business. Work out a schedule with The Mirror editors. I think we’re pretty flexible. Co-write an article and share your load with someone you trust. Please, just don’t tell us that you have too much work, because it’s an insult to yourself and an insult to The Mirror editors as students.

  • The Mirror is too cliquey.

Okay. If someone said this to me two years ago, I’d laugh. As a freshman, I never truly connected with the editors and other writers. I was too scared. The editors seemed to have their own inside jokes and conversations, and I always felt left out. Now that I am a part of the Mirror ‘culture,’ I can say that The Mirror is a bit of a clique. But not in the “Mean Girls” type of way, because we’re all so very different. What I mean to say is that we are not totally inclusive. We are close in the sense that we’re stuck in the office together from Tuesday afternoon to (often times) Wednesday mornings. We go through the same struggles and have the same complaints. How can we not be a close-knit group after all of this?

If you’re willing to stick with us on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, we consider you an official Mirrorite (the term is still being considered). If you write for us consistently and drop by to say ‘hi’ once in a while, you’re a Mirrorite.

  • Not a lot of people seem to do it.

This is true. In the beginning of the year, we had about 60 people crowded into our small Mirror office. There were people standing outside of the office, listening in. Sadly, however, the number has dwindled to the point that our Wednesday meetings consist only of the editors. We’re trying our best to keep students’ interest. I mean, we’re not scary. Are we? Sure, the editor-in-chief has a mohawk and a wild beard, but he’s chill…

To end this:

I’m still here, at the newspaper. The editors are trudging along. We get by, because we know that despite the lack of contributors, that doesn’t mean we can’t get an issue out. But I know that we can’t last this long. We need students. Like I said, I am not a pessimist, so I am hoping that in the future The Mirror will get the attention that it deserves and people will throw themselves into the awesome world of journalism. We are not giving up.

Short fiction piece: Freedom

I’m reading this short piece tomorrow at a gathering for creative writers. I’m so nervous. I don’t often read my fiction to people other than my close friends. Wish me luck!

Update: It wasn’t bad at all! Everyone seemed nervous but when they started reading from the podium, they sailed through. People read a variety of works. I read short fiction. My roommate, Ali, read a nonfiction piece about ‘catastrophic diarrhea,’ which sounds disgusting but was absolutely hilarious. One person from my fiction class read spoken word and I didn’t know that he was so good at it! A really nervous-looking girl read a poem in which she made a metaphor out of one person’s body part. Who thinks of that?

I left this event feeling extremely fulfilled. We all bared some bit of our souls, so in the end, it didn’t matter if one person messed up or not. What mattered was that we, as creative writers, took the step to read works that we usually keep to ourselves.

The event also made me think about the future. Representatives from Fairfield University’s MFA program discussed how life-changing the seminars and meetings were. They have a community of writers willing to critique and comment on each others’ work. I wish we had more of that at school.

I mean, sure, we have Inkwell, the student-run literary magazine, but at the meetings, we do prompts and read unfinished work. I know that a lot of students don’t feel comfortable reading something that’s unedited and based off a prompt. I think that people might prefer to have a set time and date to read finished masterpieces, and then accept constructive criticisms. I had time to talk to the people who’ve read at this event and they all seemed to agree that this event had somehow changed the writer in them. I can see the confidence in the way they talked about their experience. I sense some coffee shop readings in the future.

Overall, I am so glad that I went to this event and I hope that the creative writing department holds more of these in order to nurture the writing community that they talked about.

Freedom

by Loan Le

When Abby shot the security guard, she didn’t notice that her father, who was pinned underneath the other man’s knee, stopped struggling against his impending arrest. She didn’t know at the time that the gleaming golden bullet from her Glock 27 would make a nearly straight path toward the guard’s neck and lodge itself in his external jugular vein. Abby had only wanted it to go for his shoulder or arm, or anything that’d stop him from reaching for his handcuffs, which were intended for her father. The split second after she sees the guard’s blood spurt in different directions, she naively thinks that, somehow, he’d be alright. Somehow, the mahogany flesh encasing the guard’s massive neck would diminish the bullet’s impact.

The guard didn’t see her. The guard didn’t know that he’d die on a Tuesday in October at 8:14 in the morning. The 250-pound guard collapses on top of her father, who then grimaces at the added weight to his much smaller prone body. Abby doesn’t help him up, not immediately, that is, because she finds that she can’t move her legs. The Glock drops to her feet, only to skid across the sleek marble floor of the bank. Around her, people, who waited to cash in a check or pay their late mortgages, clamber over the black bars that kept them in line, and they run from her, the sixteen-year-old girl who just wanted to help her father pay the bills.

He can’t be dead, she thinks.

If her brother Hayden was with her, Abby knew he’d look at the guard and say, “Wow, good shot, Abs,” because that’s the type of sick guy he is—was … well, before he overdosed two months ago. Hayden would push the man’s body off their father’s. He’d even shoot the guy again for a good measure. He’d tell Abby to run. Abby needs someone to tell her what to do, because right now, she’s stuck. She feels a sudden, new ache in the part that burns whenever she cries alone in her bathroom, the part that perks up when she learns that they’d have enough money to last the month, the part that yearns for freedom. Abby knows the name of this intruder that’s gnawing at her insides, it’s called ‘remorse,’ and she doesn’t like how it feels, but she can’t stop herself from recognizing the calamity that she has caused. As she stares blindly at her trembling hands, she wonders if the man had a toddler waiting at home, excited to see her “Dada” after a long day of work. She imagines the wife who will never again run her hand through her husband’s mousy brown hair in a show of absent-minded affection. Abby thinks of all this because that’s the kind of girl she is – the soft-spoken girl who never, ever imagined that she could kill.

This isn’t what she imagined would happen when she first agreed to help plan robberies with her father and Hayden. If she could have predicted this, she would have said no the day her father told her: “I promise, it’ll only be this one time.” She pictures in her head that cloudy summer morning, when they had, for the third time that week, charred Spam and runny scrambled eggs. She sees her twelve and a half-year-old thin self, hunched over her chipped Ikea plate, holding her shoulders in a way so that her nipples wouldn’t brush up against her T-shirt. At the time, she was growing what all girls her age wanted, but she also knew that her family had no money, and buying training bras were not on the top of the family’s list of priorities. Her father’s plan seemed like the only option they had, so she said yes.

But now, now, as the bank is empty, as her father reaches for her, she finds herself inexplicably caught in what she wanted to escape that day she said yes. Trouble. Confusion. Desperation. She knows that this is the last time she’d steal anything.

The doors to the bank open up, the entrance bell’s chime gets Abby’s attention. She hears the quick footsteps of the officers who barrel themselves into the lobby and their shouts to “Get down!” and “Drop your weapons!” The dead man is pushed unceremoniously off her father, and before he has the time to rub the pain away from his aching chest, the SWAT officers grab hold of him and roughly slam him back onto his stomach.  Abby’s pale blue eyes connect with the officer who’s pointing the nozzle of a gun at her.

She wants to run away. But then she searches for her father. His gray hair has speckles of blood on it. Her father refuses to look at her, now that he’s being led away. She feels a light hand on her left arm; she glances down and back up to see that a redheaded cop is touching her. Her fingers are light on Abby’s pale and dry skin. Abby thinks this is the maternal instinct of the cop coming out. Maybe the cop feels sorry for her – Abby’s only sixteen and going to jail. She killed for her father. She killed because of him.

Abby’s not going anywhere for a long time.

“Arrow” nearly misses the mark

Five years ago, billionaire playboy Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell), while in a life raft after his yacht capsized, witnesses the suicide of his father. To him, this means the sudden loss of his kind-hearted, patient father. To Starling City, it means the loss of a tycoon who owned and controlled much of the city. This sets off the whole plot of the new The CW show “Arrow.”

Before killing himself, Robert Queen tells his son to right his wrongs and restore Starling City to its former glory. In this one statement, his father admits his failure as a businessman and also encourages his son to become a better person than he was.

After being saved by remote fishermen, Oliver returns to find the city in shambles, rampant with lowly vermin and corrupt yuppies. Keeping his father’s words in mind, Oliver takes it upon himself to dispose of the poison in Starling City by becoming Arrow, the green-hooded vigilante who takes down the corrupt on “The List,” using the skills he acquired after years of being marooned on an island.

In doing this, Oliver must also fool his friends and family by balancing his secret identity with his identity as the prodigal son returned.

In the most recent episode on Nov. 8, “Damaged,” Detective Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne) believes he has found Arrow when he spots Oliver on tape at the scene of a recent murder. Oliver knows the truth, but of course, the public has little reason to believe that he could be Arrow. For one, they think he is still the same lawless playboy from five years ago. They also believe that Lance, whose daughter had died when Oliver’s yacht capsized, is just out for blood.

Oliver is surprisingly calm at these accusations, although in this show, the actor Amell is only capable of exhibiting the stiff calmness of a monk. His arrest, the viewers learn, is all part of Oliver’s plan.

Defended by morally straight lawyer Laurel (Katie Cassidy), Oliver’s ex-girlfriend and the other daughter of Detective Lance, Oliver is free on house arrest. Detective Lance believes he’s gotten Oliver in a corner, but then, later, when the handiwork of Arrow occurs at the scene of a failed arms deal while the suspect is seen at home, Lance can’t do anything but let him go.

Oliver had actually enlisted the help of his former Marine bodyguard/confidant to distract the police. By the end of the episode, Oliver is back to playing the role of Starling City’s vigilante.

The show has a lot plot holes that desperately need some explanation. For one, when Oliver “returns from the dead,” he sets up a secret lair for himself in one of his father’s old, abandoned companies, because what superhero shouldn’t have his own place to chillax in? A question that needs to be answered is: How does he get the money to buy all of this, especially since he doesn’t work to earn income himself? The money most likely comes from the family account, so how does Oliver hide these funds from his mother’s knowledge?

Also, through flashbacks, viewers learn that Oliver was a fun-loving guy back in the day. Yet, when returning to civilization, he takes on the role of a highly intelligent vigilante/assassin, capable of speaking languages like Russian, even though he was marooned on a Chinese island? Does being isolated on an island for five years cause one to grow a brain? Apparently so for Oliver.

The originality of the plot is also debated. Starling City can be seen as a sexier – and can it be said darker – version of Gotham City. Oliver-Arrow is just another Batman, except his attire doesn’t mimic a flying creature, and his voice doesn’t sound like your 70-year-old grandpa who used to smoke religiously. This comparison would make sense since “Arrow” is based on the comic book series “Green Arrow,” published by the famous DC Comics. And guess what? Batman is published by the same company.

“Arrow” does have some shining moments. One of the more interesting relationships exists between Oliver and John Diggle (David Ramsey), the former Marine bodyguard whom Moira Queen (Susanna Thompson) hires for her only son’s protection.

John slowly catches on to Oliver’s mysterious disappearances at night and his crazy hand-to-hand combat moves. Thus far, he is the only one to know about Oliver’s vigilante status. John is a character with morals, inherently knowing that what Oliver is doing is unlawful, yet also knowing that the corrupt Starling City businessmen are worse off and cannot be stopped without Arrow’s interference.

Viewers then learn that Moira might have played a hand in the mysterious way the ship had capsized in the first place. Moira is revealed to be in possession of the Queen Gambit wreckage, a discovery that causes strain between her and her husband Walter Steele (Colin Salmon).

Even though there are so many questions that need to be answered, viewers seem to be hanging on to “Arrow,” waiting for that moment when Oliver’s outside identity collides with his perfectly fabricated secret identity.

“Arrow” was granted a full season on Oct. 22 by The CW. “Damaged” was the the network’s “most watched episode since the series premiere,” with 3.75 million viewers, according to Nielsen television ratings. The next episode will be on tonight at 8 p.m.

Designing the first impression

For my work on Dogwood: A Journal of Poetry and Prose.

Dogwood: A Journal of Poetry and Prose

NewPages reviewer David R. Matteri wrote in a review of Dogwood that editor Sonya Huber “aims to take this university magazine in a new direction.” Those were high compliments, given the fact that Dogwood had just returned from a year hiatus.

In addition to reconsidering and reordering the practicalities of our journal, Sonya and staff have also decided that our 10-year-old publication needed a facelift. I was in charge of major Dogwood surgery.

When I first started designing, I heard typeface and font being used interchangeably.

However, to sum it up, Typhophile user Norbert Florendo explained in an article:

Font is what you use, and typeface is what you see.

Typeface is a set of font family like Times New Roman, Arial, or Georgia. Font is the specification of a typeface (Arial in 12 pt).

Believe me, people take typefaces seriously. Yale University has its own website that discusses…

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Navigating Sandy through Social Media

After my experience with micro-blogging over the years and particularly over the past few weeks, I’ve realized that Twitter has the power to connect strangers and strengthen the whole community in times of need.

AS A CONSUMER (@loanloan)

Fueled by my growing obsession with food, I decided to follow notable people in the food industry. These Twitter users included the food empire Food Network, network stars Justin Warner, Alton Brown, Alex Guarnaschelli and food foundations like Better Food Foundation.

Hypothetically if I had to write a story now, using information tweeted by the chefs and food-affiliated twitter handles, I’d focus on how the food industry is helping those in need after Hurricane Sandy.

A lot of times these chefs are not just passionate about food, but they are also passionate about giving others access to food. I remember once watching a special on Food Network in which chefs followed the trail of food from pre-production to production. In this way, the chefs exposed to the audience to how food is processed and who exactly receives the food. They generally seek to spread awareness on local poverty. In light of Hurricane Sandy, as a reporter, I might want to see who is in need of food. I might ask, “What foundations are in process of handing out food?” Some of the chefs  reside in New York, and I know that the state was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. I see tweets and retweets from the chefs encouraging their New York followers to help out at local shelters.

Before the storm, I remember one or two chefs tweeting tips on how to prepare food in the case of an emergency, which I thought was a really enlightening and humorous thing to tweet.

The chefs are not only tweeting on their own expenses, but also on behalf of their restaurants. Most of these chefs have interesting characters along with their food expertise, which explains why people have the desire to follow them. As business reporter Darren Rovell said, in his article “13 Golden Rules of Twitter,” tweets with humor can garner a good following.

Because these chefs are embedded in an area where food is needed, they are more knowledgeable about the places that are helping with food distribution. Their tweets and retweets would help me find people I can get in contact with. I’m not familiar with the foundations they are involved with, but since most of the chefs tweet links to the foundation sites for their followers to donate to, I can use this to lead me in the right direction. The foundations that I follow are only a few of those that exists in New York and other areas.

AS A CURATOR

[View the story “Keep calm and carry on: Fairfield University moves past Sandy” on Storify]

Given my live-tweeting experience during Hurricane Sandy, I knew before creating my Storify that I wanted to cover how Fairfield University handled the storm and its aftermath. During the actual event, I started ‘Favoriting’ certain tweets, thinking that I could use them in my Storify. To retrieve these specific tweets for my Storify, I clicked on Twitter, went to Favorites, and typed in my twitter handle. From there, I was able to easily insert the tweets into the story.

I also briefly filmed what was happening outside just as Sandy was starting up. I then used the YouTube video to show just how intense the winds were.

I also considered the location of those who tweeted during this time and narrowed my focus to Fairfield University administration, staff and students and also town of Fairfield and news outlets. I felt like key users like IRHA, FUSA, The Mirror, BCC212 were the main sources of information during this period. I used their tweets in my Storify because they had acted as the authority for technical information during the power outage on campus. In this way, I believe I succeeded in micro-blogging by using specific sources.

In addition to researching Sandy by traditional method of utilizing the web, I also consulted University students for their input on the whole experience. I included quotes from students I interviewed after the storm had passed, because as the assignment said, I wanted to cover the story from start to finish, and felt like they had a lot of things to discuss.

In this curation process, sometimes I couldn’t access a certain tweet or Facebook update, possibly due to privacy restrictions. As a curator, in, say the art world, I imagine that one person can hear gossip about an exhibition that another person wouldn’t know about. Similarly for me as a curator in social media, on my personal accounts, I have the ability to see only certain updates. For example, since Hurricane Sandy, I’ve been following the Fairfield Police Department and I receive their updates on my Facebook newsfeed. Yet, when I searched for them on Storify, nothing showed up.

I imagined the Storify article to be similar to a traditional news article, save for shorter paragraphs. Since I knew my audience would be part of the Fairfield University crowd, most of my transitional sentences summarized the idea and the following bits of social media consisted mainly of specifics. In one portion I wanted to show the damages done to Fairfield University and the town of Fairfield, so I embedded images in a sequence. If I had put text between each image, I would have disrupted the flow.

AS A CREATOR

For my immersion experience, I tweeted from The Mirror account  Hurricane Sandy updates. I started tweeting consistently when the power outages began. Luckily I made sure to charge my phone the whole day so when the powers went out, my iPhone was charged 100 percent.

Even as I sat in my Dolan kitchen, surrounded by roommates and illegally lit candles, I remained focus on the task of tweeting from The Mirror’s account. I liked that with a mobile phone, I was able to connect to others no matter my location. All the while, I felt a sense of urgency.

Rovell said,  “Don’t Trust Everything That Is Tweeted.” However, I played around with this rule as I was tweeting. Usually, I don’t trust the students that the newspaper follows because their tweets are usually incomprehensible or totally irrelevant to school news. But during the start of the outages, I looked at the Twitter feed and saw that students were saying “this place” and “that place” had lost power. I then tweeted that “______ has  lost power.” If a group of students happened to report the same thing at the exact same time, I reasoned that the information was true. In my opinion, I think it was easy to distinguish the sources I should trust from those I should not.

In the case that I wasn’t so sure about a particular source, I did a bit of research. I wanted to tweet accurately during this time, because I knew followers would want quick but also correct information. For example, if I came across information that needed an attribution, I would use words like “reportedly” or “this source reported” just so that if the information was wrong, The Mirror wouldn’t be held totally responsible for the misinformation. But I only used this strategy when I considered the information most likely to be true. I was thinking of the time when Joe Paterno, head coach of Penn State football who failed to efficiently report the sexual abuse crimes committed by football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, had passed away. His death was announced prematurely, but the information couldn’t be confirmed. Even though he did pass away the next day, those responsible for the early tweets were relieved of their jobs. I knew that I needed to attribute my sources so that I could know where I received the information in retrospect.

Let me just say that I loved how the news outlets and Fairfield University twitter accounts were working together. It was astounding to see. One outside newspaper sent direct messages to us, giving us information and asking if we needed more help. When I needed to confirm some information, I would consult people that had the information. For example, one of my roommates said that the BCC was running on generator, even as it acted as an evacuation center for Beach residents and Townhouse residents, who had lost power. I wanted to confirm this, so I sent a tweet to Fred Kuo, who is heavily involved with the BCC. He answered me directly and confirmed that the BCC was, in fact, running on generator. I felt safe then to retweet this to The Mirror’s audience.

I made sure to tweet using AP and The Mirror guidelines. At one point I had misspelled the residence McInnes as McGinnes. I deleted the original tweet and immediately posted another one less than a minute later. It helped that I had the option to delete tweets, but luckily I didn’t find it necessary to use it often. It was also a challenge to keep to the 140 character-limit on Twitter. Not only did I have to get information out on time, but I also had to keep it clear and brief. After a few rounds of tweets, I got the hang of it. According to our chapter on micro-blogging, tweeting is more about the quality of the information than the quantity of information. I believe I did provide quality information during Hurricane Sandy.

Also during the power outages, I constantly checked The Mirror’s feed, because we followed a lot of students and Fairfield University personnel, and I knew I’d get a lot of information that related to the campus and town. In this way, I believe that I did “follow the right people,” as Rovell had instructed in his article “13 Golden Rules of Twitter.” I saw someone tweeting about students being stuck in a Mahan elevator. I didn’t have a way to confirm this, so I tweeted that someone is “believed to be” stuck in the elevators. I did this because I wanted to alert anyone in Mahan, so in the case that the outage lasted a long time and elevators wouldn’t be moving for a while, people would know that someone needed help in the elevators. About an hour later, we received a response from one of the students stuck in the elevator, who, along with her friends, were able to get out safely. Crisis averted there.

I also wanted to hear from students how they were coping during this event, so at one point, I asked followers to tweet back at us. Rovell mentioned that it was alright to occasionally tweet personal tweets. Though my tweet wasn’t necessarily personal, I was still breaking the wall between a news outlet that reports plain facts and the audience whom it caters to.

I ran into some technical difficulties. IPhones tend to run out of battery fairly quickly. Although I made sure to turn off unnecessary components, by lowering the brightness and eliminating apps that I wouldn’t be using, I slowly saw my battery running out. I almost panicked. At this point, I couldn’t switch over to my laptop because my Wi-Fi was down along with the power outage. Luckily the lights went on when my battery was at maybe 10 percent.

In the case that I ran out of battery before the lights went on, I’d send a quick message to other staff members on The Mirror to start tweeting. I feel like heading into the storm I was the sole person tweeting, with occasional help from Martin, the editor-in-chief. Prior to the outage, I did send out a message to staff members with the Twitter account name and password and asked for them to assist with tweeting, but sadly I didn’t get much help. For the future, I believe The Mirror would need to be more organized in this aspect.

Overall, this immersion experience was intense but also taught me how social media can establish strong ambient awareness in times of crises and disasters.

Beach residents adjust to Sandy aftermath

Students familiar with the Mateo Sanchez, S.J., room in the Ignatius Loyola Hall will remember its tacky couches and capacity to hold no more than 50 people. Now, there are five beds, five girls, and their belongings packed into one room.

Relocated beach resident Kaitlyn Lewandowski ‘13 now resides in that same room, one of many places on the Fairfield University campus that have been converted in order to host displaced Fairfield Beach area residents who had lost their homes in Hurricane Sandy just last week.

The east coast continues to clean up after the hurricane had destroyed houses, uprooted trees and flooded many streets that left residents discouraged in the aftermath.

A large portion of the 350 displaced  residents chose to return to campus rather than commute. Lounges in halls like 70 McCormick Rd., Gonzaga, Jogues and Campion are now converted to host students. Some seniors are staying with friends on campus or rooming with underclassmen in doubles.

Director of the Office of Residential Life Ophelie Rowe-Allen, said the housing process has been “hectic,” but they are doing the best they can to meet students’ needs: “If they need a place on campus, we try to find it for them.” She said she does not place students based on how long it might take for their beach houses to be renovated.

Staff members “have been working 24 hours to get everything fixed. They’ve worked from the beginning of the storm until to now … going home late, working very late,” said Rowe-Allen.

So far, students are aware of the University’s efforts. Lewandowski said, “It’s definitely a switch going from sharing a house with five girls to sharing a room with five girls. But we’re happy just to have a place to stay.”

Senior Andrew Bromstedt, whose house didn’t flood but needs renovations to its heating system, had originally planned to move into a townhouse, but it ended up having too many people, so the Office of Residential Life moved him into Gonzaga Hall.

Bromstedt said of Res Life: “They’re doing the best they can. You can’t be too mad; it’s not like it’s their fault that the hurricane came.”

Senior Kimberly Combs, who lives with five other girls in the converted third floor lounge in Campion Hall, shared Bromstedt’s sentiments towards the University: “The school has been very accommodating, they’ve done everything they can. I mean, it’s no one’s fault.” She noted that she and her roommates chose to move off-campus, so the University didn’t have to accommodate the residents, but still did so.

That is not to say they don’t have their share of complaints. Students are still getting used to relocating from life near the waters to life on campus. They must adjust to the smaller living area, for one, as Lewandowski said.

“Just sharing a room with five people is very different from having my own room. You can’t really have people over with five roommates,” said Lewandowski.

“The school doesn’t have enough room for everyone, we can’t live like this — six seniors in a room,” said Catherine LaGreca ‘13, who rooms with Combs. According to her, the school must consider the future of students who might want to live on the beach, if the option is available by next semester.

Even though the Office of Residential Life has given them beds, added laundry swipes to their StagCards, and placed them in residences campus-wide, they don’t have enough refrigerators for campus’ new residents, causing some issues with the storage of food.

Barone is one choice for some who want a 14-meals a week plan for around $600 for the semester. But LaGreca said that she and her roommates choose to go out for food, which is getting expensive, she noted. They also are hesitant to buy a meal plan when they aren’t sure when they’d return to their beach house and not have any more use for the beach plan.

The residents in the Campion also worry about the rest of the senior year. Though they agree that it’s something that all seniors will remember and bond over for the rest of their lives, Combs and LaGreca’s roommate, Paulina Foster ‘13, agreed that Hurricane Sandy had “put a huge damper on [our senior year].”

Because “residential guidelines still apply to all students,” according to Rowe-Allen, seniors might have to adjust their social lifestyle. But the director of Residential Life said that after three years, she is not at all worried that this year’s class-fused living situation will cause problems.

For many beach students, rooming in cramped quarters and changing their lifestyles is the only option. According to Lewandowski, her beach house needs three to five months to be repaired. She received two feet of water and sewage damage in her house, and most of her belongings were destroyed. Her landlord doesn’t seem to be helping the case; she heard from a neighbor that he flew out of country after the storm.

Campion’s newest residents are unsure of their beach house’s fate. Combs noted Wednesday and Thursday’s Nor’easter has the potential to cause more damages.

Rowe-Allen noted that Hurricane Sandy seemed to bring the Fairfield University a bit closer. Alumni have come to the rescue of Stags. Community members have offered their homes in such places like Fairfield, Trumbull and Darien. She is still receiving responses as of Tuesday. “The response was ‘overwhelming,’” she concluded.

The freshmen are also accommodating their older neighbors. Freshmen Nora Garrity sympathizes with the seniors: “It’s too bad that the seniors who live at the beach have to come back to campus and live with freshmen after three years of looking forward to living on the beach.”

Freshman Deirdre Simms also said, “I would say that it is really unfortunate that the seniors have to stay in the dorms but the most important thing is that they have a place to stay. I think everyone has been making the best of the situations in the dorms.”

Bromstedt and the new residents of Campion are adapting to their circumstances. Lewandowski has found a possible new home for next year and said she was excited about the find.

For the Class of 2013, life moves on.

For more information on Fairfield University beach residents:

  • Greenwich Times published an article about Father Jeffrey von Arx, S.J., and the beach residents he reached out to.

Fairfield U. campus belted by Sandy

Photographic spread of damages in Fairfield, Conn. from Hurricane Sandy. Loan Le/The Mirror

Yesterday morning, the sun shone down on the Barone Campus Center. Fairfield University flags reclaimed their places on light poles campus-wide. The gardening staff returned to meticulously caring for the evergreen lawns on campus.

This scene was in stark contrast against Monday evening at Fairfield University, when nearly all campus buildings had gone dark and was at the mercy of Hurricane Sandy’s 80 mph winds.

News about Hurricane Sandy, dubbed by some as “Frankenstorm” or “The Superstorm,” first emerged more than a week ago. The Weather Channel was quick to notify people about its severity and even tweeted that this hurricane “will occupy a place in the annals of weather history as one of the most extraordinary to have affected the United States.”

Fairfield University cancelled Monday and Tuesday classes in preparation for Sandy. According to one of many StagAlerts that the University had sent out, “all students who can go home are strongly encouraged to do so.” For those who chose to remain, the school instructed them to stay inside at all times.

According to a campus-distributed survey, around 1000 students waited out the storm on campus.

During the storm

At approximately 5:30 p.m., the Townhouses lost power. Around 500 residents in the Townhouse complex had to be evacuated via shuttle buses to the BCC, but some students went to stay with friends in the other residence.

Because of its spaciousness, the connecting dining service and couches and furniture, the BCC became the main evacuation center during Hurricane Sandy, according to Nathan Lubich, assistant director of Residence Life, who spoke for the office. If the BCC was ever compromised, Lubich imagined that they would move students to Alumni Hall.

Some students complained about the evacuation, but Lubich said he understood the circumstances. “It’s really hard for people to be told to just sit and wait.”

But, ultimately, the Resident Assistants performed “really well,” Lubich said. The RAs, who were asked to remain on campus as “critical employees,” had their radios ready and went on rounds in their halls during the power outage. Public Safety officers also assisted in the patrol.

The Quad, the Village, Dolan and Bellarmine all lost power by 7:30 p.m. on Monday, but since the emergency lights stayed on, students were allowed to stay in their residences.

From then on was a waiting game for most. Students received Facebook and Twitter updates from the University, Fairfield Police Department, The Mirror, Fairfield University Student Association and Inter-Residential Housing Association.

Twitter also indicated smaller incidents, which happened during the outage. A fallen wire of 13,000 Hertz had caused a small fire on North Benson Road. In Mahan, some students were stuck in an elevator but were eventually freed later on in the night.

Then at about 11 p.m., almost simultaneously, power was restored to all buildings, save for the Townhouses.

Technically, Hurricane Sandy was downgraded to post-tropical cyclone status around 7 p.m. Despite this change, weather broadcasters had urged people to still take Sandy seriously.

Broken tree outside of Dolan Hall. Photo credit: Loan Le

The damages to the University campus consisted of fallen trees and some smashed cars, but these damages seemed to pale in comparison to those in the town of Fairfield.

Dealing with the Aftermath

Next Tuesday morning Fairfield was in a state of emergency with over 97 percent of residents without power. Streets and homes suffered severe flooding. Some roads were blocked by broken branches.

Because of road blockages and the power outage, for example, FPD had used the University Department of Public Safety radio frequencies to collaborate on responding to nearby damage, including the short-lived fire on North Benson Road.

Nationally, the statistics showed even more dire consequences. On Tuesday, approximately 8 million people were without power.

As of Thursday evening, CNN indicated the death toll in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean was at 157. The cost of economic damage is at an estimated $20 billion, with some news reporting that it could possibly amount to $50 or $60 billion.

However, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Fairfield University moves forward with the resilience to overcome future difficulties.

Vice President of Student Affairs Thomas C. Pellegrino

The next day, Barone Campus Center Dining Hall provided full service to displaced Townhouse and Beach area residents and other students, an act that proved to Lubich the attempt to return to normality.

“Every crisis brings with it its own unique circumstances, and Hurricane Sandy was no exception. With that said, our approach is to keep students and community members safe, through best practices and through clear and timely communications,” Vice President of Student Affairs Thomas Pellegrino said.

Dolan resident Amanda LaMattina ‘14 approved of the safety measures the University had undertaken during the crisis. “I personally felt safer there than going home. My parents actually encouraged me to stay here. I can honestly say that after the hurricane I was a lot better off staying here than going home,” she said.

Similarly, Sarah McHugh ‘15 said she felt safe because “when the power went out and this storm was going on I was surrounded by my friends.”

Junior Nicole Juliano, a Townhouse resident who stayed in McInnes Hall while the evacuation had been underway, said of her current situation: “The townhouses not having power is frustrating but I can’t really complain because there are students who lost their homes completely. I’ve been staying with friends in Mahan and McInnes and we’re allowed back to our houses during the day.”

Juliano and Lubich said that the University had done a good job with keeping student up-to-date during and after the storm. Parents on Facebook found the University updates to be helpful.

On the Fairfield University Facebook page, Lisa Fescoe Petramale, who has a son enrolled, wrote: “They’re doing a fantastic job so far for the safety of all.” Another parent, Suzanne Taves, resided in California and said she “ really appreciated the updates.”

Townhouse resident Rob Garrone ‘14 also believed the University did its best in response to the hurricane, but still had criticism for some of the school’s procedures.

“I think the university is being a little heavy-handed in its response to the storm in this instance,” said Garrone. “I could easily be sleeping in my bed in my townhouse in the dark at night instead of being in someone else’s room, inconveniencing my friends and other guests like the beach residents who really do need a place to stay. I’m not afraid of the dark.”

Pellegrino also pointed other areas of improvement during natural disaster responses: “In terms of what could have been done better, I think there would be opportunity for us to streamline our communications and see to it that we were meeting reasonable expectations in terms of clarity and timeliness. That’s always something that can be worked on.”

Moving forward

Fairfield University is eager to move on. “‘Tireless efforts’ is a term that gets thrown around a lot, but in this instance, these people have very much worked around the clock this past week adjusting to the needs of an extraordinarily difficult situation,” he said.

Pellegrino said: “Suffice to say, though, that these are going to be continually challenging times. We will be there for the students, and I think the level of support received from all sectors of the University has already reaped rewards.”

“As a Jesuit institution, Fairfield does this better than most,” he said.

Published in The Mirror on Nov. 2 in a special Hurricane Sandy issue