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.
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.
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.