Superstorm Sandy – 1 Year Later

It has been one year since Superstorm Sandy.  In that time I’ve made three trips to the Jersey Shore, and will make my next trip in just a few days.  I’ve had a lot of time to reflect and absorb what’s happen to my hometown and my friends.  On the anniversary of the storm that changed my town and the lives of my family and friends, I wanted to reflect on this last year, and what it has brought.

For the first half of the year I experienced a sadness one only understands after a tragedy of that magnitude.  But mixed in with sadness were occasional bouts of relief and moments of guilt.  Relief and guilt often explains my state, when i talk about my family in Keyport – my family managed to escape all damage, not even a fallen tree, while a house 1/2 a block a way had water 3/4 the way up the 1st floor.  My mom was lucky, but not even her neighbors were spared.

My childhood home was graciously spared

My childhood home was graciously spared

I saw overwhelming generosity from everyone.  This working class town had little money, yet gave whatever they had to those in need. I saw calls out on Facebook for items, only to be followed shortly with pleas to stop as they had too much.  High school classmates of mine, who saw how the Red Cross was putting up a lot of barriers causing people to not get the help they need quickly, created their own 501(c), Restore The Bayshore, to purchased and donated gift cards from Lowe’s and Stop and Shop to donate to those in need.  Another classmate who owns a salon in town organized a gift drive for children affected by the storm, so they too would have a Christmas with presents under the tree.  The generosity has continued as people continue to respond to calls for help as people continue to work on their homes as they try to rebuild.

I saw the indomitable spirit of hard working people.  The rebuild and reopening of Mikes Sub’s, Drew’s Bistro, and Jakeabobs Off The Bay, the latter using doors from lost homes in Union Beach as decor and as a reminder.  I saw the rebuilding and reopening of the Jersey Shore in time for summer.  And I even got to spend my Labor Day weekend on the beach at Asbury Park.

The line at Mike's Subs re-opening day

The line at Mike’s Subs re-opening day

My heart broke on more than a few occasions.  I saw a famous restaurant, over 100 years old, get torn down.  I saw friends fight insurance for months with nothing to show for it.  I cried for the business owners at Point Pleasant, who rebuilt after Sandy, just to watch it burn away In a massive fire just a few short months later.

For better or for worse I saw my community draw news and nationally recognized celebrities, all in a hope to help breathe life into this town.  Obama toured by air, Bobby Flay came for a Throwdown, even recently Jimmy Carter came as part of his sponsorship of Habitat for Humanity.  But I’ve also seen stories where Union Beach is held up as an example of where the recovery has stalled.

All this reflection, talking and discussing about the storm with my mom and dad has had a difficult effect for my son.  This year he has gone through a huge change.  On my first trip this year he was an innocent toddler on the verge of turning 3.  He didn’t understand the magnitude of what happened, just was mad his favorite park was broken.  Sometime during the year he started talking about how he doesn’t like storms, and has more then once come into my bed after having a a storm related nightmare.  When we went back to our repaired park on our last trip, he kept asking if a storm would come and take the park again.  I realize he picks up and now understands more, a lot more.  He observes me and my emotions and pays a great deal of attention to what I say, no matter how off-the-cuff or inappropriate-for-little-ears it may be.  He now has memories, and as a parent I now feel compelled to protect and be careful to help make those memories good ones, and spare him, where I can, of the bad ones.  I’ve not been particularly careful, talking about Hurricane Sandy in front of him, and now I am more careful when I talk about bad news, any bad news.

In the end, I came to a realization – not everyone will rebuild.  The building landscape will change.  Not everyone will move back home, some may leave the area permanently. But others will move in.  After winter comes spring and spring brings new growth.  I hope that my little town has passed through this hard winter.  And a strong spring will breathe in wonderful new life.

One thought on “Superstorm Sandy – 1 Year Later

  1. Your last paragraph is both beautiful and true.

    But just to back up a little – don’t feel guilt over the talking. In my experience, and from talking with others, this is the age at which they start to get a sense that the word can be a scary place. A lot of kids start asking about death around this age – they see a dead animal or hear of someone who passed away and they ask about it, *and then they realise it could happen to anyone*. It’s heartbreaking for a parent but I guess sometime, somehow, they have to realise these things in the course of normal development. I try to help put it in perspective and give P a proactive way to respond (sometimes I’m successful, I could probably improve).

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