In New Jersey, Hurricane Sandy took many by surprise. I believe the reason is, last August we felt the aftershocks of an earth quake and a week later Hurricane Irene. We were told that Irene would be much more severe than it was. We took precautions, but the storm was a dud. This storm was quite different.
Living so close to the water, the day before the storm, I took a stroll down to the beach to assess how bad it would actually be compared to last year. I stood behind a sand dune at the entrance, close to the street and I couldn’t believe my eyes. The beach was gone; the stormy sea was raging on both sides of me and crossing over the beach entrance and meeting the bay on the other side. I quickly realized I needed to get home when a big wave knocked down the sand dune protecting me and pushed me on my face to the ground. Water and sea-foam engulfed me and the Iphone I was taking pictures with. I truly thought I would be carried out to sea. I was stunned that the sea would be so strong the day before the storm. Soaking wet and now frightened, I returned home to find the wind howling so strongly outside my windows. It sounded as though I were on a horror movie set. Later that night the ocean barreled down my street like a flash flood.
I have not been the same since Hurricane Sandy. I lost a lot of precious memories. Things I didn’t realize I had until I went to look for them, like bringing up our Christmas tree and ornaments we collected over the past thirty years, momentum’s from my children’s childhood and mine. My daughter and her family who live in Manasquan are now displaced from the storm and living in a hotel in Newark, uncertain where they will be living for Christmas. The losses are too numerous to count. As I go through the National Guard security to attend mass every day in Bay Head I see devastation. I pass the missing homes I admired on a regular basis, the condemned homes now barricaded with sand dunes, the dilapidated homes scattered. I see years of memories and priceless possessions piled on the curb for garbage pickup. My church that was newly renovated, uninhabitable. We sit together in a cold hall relying on a generator for mass, with people who have lost much more than I, and we sit there grateful, grateful to be alive and together. Their main concern is for the people next to them and how they could help. They continue to give while they themselves are in so much need.
It is so easy to have everything one day and nothing the next. I hope this situation leads others to see the homeless differently. How people can lose everything over circumstances beyond their control, whether it’s poor health, loss of a job, a loved one, a hurricane or whatever.
The Jersey Shore will never be what it was, the memories I hold of it from my childhood are gone. It is changed forever, but it will be rebuilt into something new. Something built out of the love of a community. A community, that reaches out of their own losses to create a stronger and brighter future for others. A future, which will hold much more, than each person has lost.