Hurricane Sandy’s destruction changed New Jersey, but the state’s First Lady Mary Pat Christie said the storm’s impact didn’t greatly affect family life because she and her children had seen the governor work through crises before. In the second of a two-part interview, she described the governor to NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider as a compassionate man who showed that emotion to the nation after the storm.
Christie said she wasn’t surprised by how the governor reacted to the storm’s devastation. “He’s a very compassionate person and clearly his compassion was front and center for certainly that first week and really the first two weeks of the aftermath,” she said. “So I didn’t see something I haven’t seen before but I think maybe the rest of the country and certainly the rest of the state probably hadn’t seen the compassion that Chris so exemplifies when he’s one on one with people.”
There was a lot of talk about how the governor interacted with President Barack Obama, who came to tour devastated areas after the hurricane hit and shortly before the presidential election. The governor praised the president for his leadership and some Republicans criticized him for doing so shortly before the presidential election since he had endorsed Mitt Romney for president. Christie said her husband never discussed the possible political fallout of his actions and she doesn’t think he thought about it.
“Chris from 7 o’clock in the morning until 10, 11 o’clock at night was focused on this storm. So I don’t think it entered his mind. He certainly didn’t discuss it with me,” Christie said. “We certainly were just proud of the fact the president was coming to our state and proud of the fact that we could showcase our state and the need that we had.”
While Christie said she doesn’t discuss every detail about state government with her husband, the couple shares their daily work lives with each other. “He knows what I’m doing at work, he knows what’s going on with the children and I certainly know about his days,” she said. “Do we get into policy? We certainly don’t get into the nitty gritty but if there’s interesting things going on, I hear about them.”
Christie said she wasn’t surprised with the length of time it took for utility companies to restore power to the state because of the amount of residents left without power immediately after the storm hit. “It was a huge job. We had utility companies from all over the country and I’m sure everybody has a story about the utility company from Michigan on your road or Tennessee or Ohio,” she said. “So I mean I think we did the best job that we could given the circumstances and the enormity of the crisis.”
After the storm hit, Christie said people came together to help each other. She said her neighbor helped remove three trees that had fallen in the driveway of her home, which was just one example. “So many people and communities across the state are doing that or were doing that,” she said.
Many have come forward to help monetarily as well. Christie helped set up the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund, which is raising money to fill the gaps left by insurance companies and FEMA. Individuals and corporations have contributed to the fund and Christie said it was easy to secure donations.
“I have to tell you that I’ve made phone calls in the past for fundraising. I’ve never had such a positive response to my phone calls. I can’t say enough for the heartfelt feelings that are out there for the state,” Christie said. “Everybody wants to help.”