A Victim’s Perspective
It has been one year since Hurricane Sandy struck the New Jersey Shore and changed my life. I will never forget the days leading up to evacuation. I will also never forget seeing the damage to the town where I once lived, Sea Bright, for the first time riding in on a bus one week after the storm.
I am still haunted by the images of those days in the aftermath. I am still kept awake some nights by the horrible destruction I saw in the town of Union Beach, when my wife and I drove through there two days after the storm. Life in some areas is coming back to “normal”, other places still look like the storm rolled through yesterday.
The federal relief aid has, for the most part, not arrived here to the areas of New Jersey which were hardest hit. FEMA is a bad word around here, they pulled out of the area and left people high and dry. The inspection process for many was not a very positive experience.
I have lived in the northern Shore area for my entire life, and I had never seen the type of destruction that I saw last October in the wake of Sandy. I also never saw so many acts of kindness and generosity.
I saw neighbors helping neighbors, but I also witnessed strangers from other parts of the state or region helping people they had never met before. In my own experience, I was in a bad car accident three weeks after Sandy, and I was injured to the point I could not lift anything. My wife and I would not have been able to salvage some of our belongings or get rid of the stuff that we needed to clear out of our home without the help of family members, but also the kindness of volunteers. Those volunteers, we had never met them before, came in on the weekend and helped us with a tremendous amount of difficult work, which due to my injuries, I could not physically undertake.
It is those experiences which provide me with hope that we will move forward from Sandy as better people that our communities will be stronger and our commitment to rebuilding the Shore will have lasting resolve.
My Story, Our Story
My story and experiences relative to Hurricane Sandy are not much different than the stories that my neighbors and fellow effected residents would share. My story is our story, it is a story of hope in the face of despair, it is a story of strength and not of giving up, it is a story of compassion for others and not isolation and it is a story of gratitude for the days ahead without taking anything for granted anymore.
I have covered the events of the days since Hurricane Sandy struck for several websites, news sources and a local magazine. I have written about the harmful effects of mold in flooded homes and businesses, and the government relief funding programs.
I have covered the impact the storm has had on our infrastructure, the increased costs of repairs to sewage and water treatment facilities and the remarkable progress made by some towns in the months following this terrible event.
I have fought back tears as I covered the “Sandy Ground Project” playground opening in Union Beach which brought a new playground to that ravaged city and dedicated it to the memory of Jack Pinto, one of the children killed in the Newtown, CT school shooting. I watched as children from Union Beach and Newtown played on the slide or the swings surrounded by a town struggling to rebuild from Sandy.
I smiled with residents of Union Beach as they showed me the work they had done to move back into their homes, which they once thought was impossible. My heart was so happy for them, and so grateful they allowed me into their lives.
I covered the impact of the storm on the small business community and their struggles and unbelievable stories of success in overcoming insurmountable odds to open for business again for the busy summer tourist season.
I covered the transformation of the boardwalks and the renewal of the Shore, detailing each town and the pitfalls and successes they had in gaining funding and rebuilding the boardwalks which are the backbone to the tourism industry in New Jersey.
I covered the visit of Prince Harry to the boardwalk in Point Pleasant and correlated it to a day where I met a member of the British royal family so many years earlier, and the hope that his visit provided to New Jersey.
Finally, I covered the slow cleanup and rebuilding in towns with working class demographics such as Keansburg and Union Beach. I detailed the resolve that the people in those towns had to restore their communities against the red tape of the government and the lack of relief funding.
Looking Back, Looking Forward
I look back today, one year to the day of Sandy striking our Shore, and our state of New Jersey, and I realize how many lives I have touched through all of these articles I have published. I also realize how many lives have touched me in a profound way.
It was a distraction for me to write these stories to bring positive energy, to make a difference in the lives of others who had nobody to advocate for them because with my injuries I could not do much else to help in the effort. I was also committed that I was not going to just sit still and watch, I was going to participate by writing, by writing what I saw and who I spoke to. My story, your story, our story.
Hurricane Sandy will not define us, we will define our future. I look forward today and realize that I have covered a lot of aspects of this event. I focus on the hope, the hope for a better tomorrow that I know is within our grasp. My story is just one of many, I have shared the stories of many others. The most profound part of today and reflecting back is that I realize it is just the beginning.
My story, your story, our story continues in the days, weeks and months ahead.