Friday, July 26, 2013

After the storm

"The Storm" by Gregg Hinklicky
Lessons from Mother Nature
October 29, 2012 the area that I live in was devastated by Super Storm Sandy.   I was extremely fortunate to not have suffered any damage to my house or my business, but in the 9 months following the storm I am affected by the stories I hear, the images I see and the sadness in my customers eyes.
The image above is by an artist named Gregg Hinklicky.  He collected items he found along the beach and his neighborhood days and weeks after the storm.
Rubble, driftwood, trash, shells, sea glass, toys, pieces of furniture, pieces of homes...fractured pieces of people's lives. 
Hundreds of homes were destroyed.  Thousands of people displaced. 
Slowly they are coming back and slowly they are trying to pick up the pieces of their lives. 
The scars run deep and the shock has not worn off completely.  There are those who jump right in and rebuild.  There are others so completely overwhelmed by what has happened, they are paralyzed. 
(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Every day I hear stories from my customers.  It's part of the process of healing I think.  Telling their story.  Getting it out.  However many times as they need to. 
One woman who has been my customer for years came in today for the first time since the storm. (The reason I am writing this now) She retired from teaching just before Sandy - getting ready to relax and enjoy her waterfront home. 
Her home was damaged during the storm but it is still intact.  The rest of her neighborhood, gone. 
Survivors guilt. 
She is scattered.  I think she is still in shock but can't identify it herself.  Our conversation today was hard to follow, the subjects she spoke of jumped drastically, instantly.     
Her foundation has been shifted and she has become fearful of another storm. 
We all are.  We are all more vulnerable than ever before. 
Every tropical depression that forms in the Atlantic Ocean puts us on alert.  "Will it affect us?" 
The words "storm surge" which was something we always heard but never really experienced much before Sandy make us nervous.  So much of the damage to the area was caused by "storm surge".  It's basically a wall of water created by the winds of a tropical storm that is over and above storm tides. 
One minute your house is high and dry and within 20 minutes it's completely underwater. 
We built homes along the bays and oceans because of the beautiful views, cooling ocean breezes and easy access to the beach.  We tore down the dunes that were once our barrier islands so we could put millions dollar homes, condos and boardwalks. 

Now we are rebuilding. 

The homes are up on stilts sometimes 14ft or higher. 

Boardwalks are rebuilt so that families can come back and enjoy a good game of skee-ball, ride the Carousel, play a round of miniature golf , eat some cheese fries or soft serve ice cream.  Tourism is a big business for us.  Families come back year after year, rent the same house (if it's still there) and love it here.

We love it here.  That's why we live here.

The buzzwords:  Jersey Strong!  Restore the Shore!  We will be back stronger than ever! will be our mottos throughout our rebuilding process and for many more years to come. 

Hey...we're from Jersey, we have a reputation of being ignorantly stubborn, we can't stop that now!

The smell of salt air is in my blood.  Whenever I travel away from home and come back, the first smell of the ocean to reach my nostrils will make my body completely relax.  I don't think I could ever move away. 

Still - what have we learned from Sandy? 

I hope a lot.  I hope we will think again before rebuilding, but I already know that we are just replacing washed away homes with something else.  Where people can not rebuild because of the cost the threat of developers with great plans to build big hotels or condos right on the beach will happen.  Palms will be greased, deals will be made and restrictions on building will loosen up. 

Governor Christie has vowed to make sure we build up our dunes to protect our coastline.  His words:  "We are not going through that again so you can sit on the first floor rather than the second floor and see the ocean."

Good for him. 

I hope it sticks.

"Sleep Well My Friend" by Jack Fusco




1 comment:

neetzy said...

Even though I am in Pennsylvania, the Jersey shore will always be home. Jersey people are strong but global warming is affecting climate change. Jersey is strong and will survive. Love you sis!