Finally Back On The Grid (New Jersey Shore post Hurricane Sandy)

So I ran the Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday, October 28th with a PR of 4:30:22.  I didn't sleep a wink the night before.  I wish I was exaggerating.  And yes, it was difficult and I will write a race report, but that is not what this entry is about.

I rushed home to prepare for Hurricane Sandy. This was being dubbed the most destructive storm the NJ Shore has seen since early 1900-something. Our original plan was to stay in the Washington DC area until Monday afternoon. We watched the weather closely and just shy of two hours post race, we checked out of our hotel room and headed homeward. While I was confident that the rain would hold off until I crossed the finish line, I was anxious over the mere thought of being stranded in DC while my children were in NJ during the worst storm in (our) history.

I don't usually call major attention to where I live, but I am a New Jersey Shore resident.

Where have I been?

First things first, we are all safe and well. Our home has virtually no damage. We have a little damage, but I refuse to describe it. If I went on about the tiny damage to our home, it would be like talking about a paper cut in front of hundreds of people with severed limbs.

Fortunately, I live on ground high enough that flooding was not a threat to my home.  However, the police department ordered a mandatory evacuation of the old Victorian style historical beach town I live in.  We did not ask why.  We just cooperated and left.

The winds were like nothing I ever heard in my life.  There was very little rain to overpower the sound of the wind!  I don't know what to compare it to.  When the wind gusts would pick up, it sounded like a huge line of trucks coming down the street.  When it went on too long, I seriously worried that part of the house would be blown away.

We barely slept and when morning arrived, the wind quieted down a bit. We lost power around 8:45 the night before and expected to be in the dark for days.  Our cell phones weren't working very well.  We couldn't reach family members.  Calls didn't go through.  Text messaging did not work.  Internet via cell phone was out of the question.

Anxious to check on our home, we ventured out. I think the word REJOICING is most fitting. My heart was rejoicing- what a blessing to have been spared, to have no damage, to have this home still in one piece. What an amazing miracle to have been spared.  We walked out to the boardwalk and that is when it hit us. Giant mountains of sand sat in the street. The ocean front homes had wet sand where lawns and sidewalks were supposed to be. The boardwalk was mangled and missing in some places.  The fishing pier and the fishing club building were GONE.

This might not look so bad,
but we NEVER have sand in the street .
The iconic Great Auditorium suffered
more damage on the other side.
We used to have a pier and
a fishing club building.
But they're now in the ocean.
And the boardwalk is bent and wavy.
Buried bench.  The sand is not usually here.
Underneath is grass.
And the bench is cement, not wood.
When I try and imagine what this looked like while it was
happening, I can't even complete the thought.
(I'm not standing on the beach. There's grass
and sidewalk under all this sand.) 
This was our first sight of destruction
beyond comprehensible repair.
Someone's livelihood was forced out the window.
The ocean is on the other side of this building.
This building was boarded up with beautiful murals.  
I still can't imagine what made this happen.  
On a walk less than a mile from our home.
So much was destroyed that there's no
way to safeguard it all.
I personally took all of these photos. These are not images from the local news or media outlets. This place won't be the same. Not for a long, long time.

My heart is always filled with hope and determination. I know we will rebuild as a community. I know that we will come together and work wonderfully together and probably have a shoreline that is even more amazing than it was before. While we and many were spared catastrophic damage to our home, countless others were not as fortunate. We spent the following days helping our family move out of their flooded home. Four kids who had a house that was their safe place and comfort now have to start over. It has not sunk in yet.  Reality has not crushed their little spirits.

Watching the kids play while we
cleaned and packed brought us a little joy.

Just finished loading the truck.
My boys were men on this day.
Doing everything that was asked
of them without question or hesitation.

My youngest boy climbing the tree
in his cousins' yard for the last time.

The value of what was lost is nothing compared to the
value that will be redeemed as our community works together.
It is rare that I don't end on a positive note when I key out a blog entry.  It is rare that I would dare approach an "audience" with defeat and sorrow.  But this is overwhelming.  I am not sitting here feeling sad and sorry, but this is something I can't articulate- it is so beyond my normal reality.  I finally got electricity back yesterday (we were without for five days) and even during the coldest parts of those nights it did not dawn on me to complain.  My heart was so full of gratitude. My sons are safe.  My home (and their father's home) is in tact.  We have more than enough bland, unhealthy, pre-packaged/canned food to last for weeks.  We have water that is safe to drink.  We have each other.  I felt blessed beyond measure.  Blessed that there was no tragic loss, and although we might lose a little money and convenience, the things that make our lives beautifully rich are still here.  Still safe.  And all the more cherished.  But the sadness hits me when I see the boardwalk.  The destroyed businesses, the people pushing water out of their homes with brooms.  The continuous call for donations of food and supplies on facebook and various websites.  I can't forget the most frightening status update I read on facebook moments before my cell phone internet connection ceased: "If you are still stranded, bring food, water, and an ax and go up to your attic.  This way, you can escape and be rescued."  I know it's over, and I know that in spite of the fact that I have no clue how we will begin, our neighborhoods will rebuild.  But I can't keep these eight words from running through my mind over and over and over: What the hell are we going to do?

(edited to add: I WILL announce a winner to last week's giveaway soon.  I promise.  I just need a little more time to get back to normal.)


  1. I got here from your post on the MM page. This is a beautifully written, heart-rending post. I don't know you, but admire your fortitude and your compassion. As the mother of boys,I teared up when I read "My boys were men on this day.
    Doing everything that was asked of them without question or hesitation." You have done a good job of raising them. My thoughts are with you and your town, with all the victims. Thanks for sharing. Michelle, MM#402

  2. Tina,
    I am so thankful that you are ok! Once again your words are moving and real. Please know that we (Simonelli's) are always here for you - whatever you need!!

  3. It is really overwhelming. The damage is catastrophic but you have the right attitude. I'm in Florida where we have big storm damage on occasion. The size of the cleanup can sometimes be paralyzing. My advice if you're interested is like anything else take it step-by-step. Make a list of the repairs that need done and photograph everything. Search for photographs to,show what it was before the damage. At some point an annoying overworked and under informed insurance adjuster will appear and ask you what you need. If you are prepared to answer quickly your results will be best. Those who wait - usually don't get as good results. Last but not least - this recovery may take a really long time. Longer. In South Florida there are still places where you can see the damage from Andrew which was in 1992. Not man-made damage but natural damage.

  4. I feel guilty that I am on the south shore of LI and I didn't even lose power while more than 250,000 people still don't have it. I am grateful for everything, that my parents are safe at home, my kids are able to go back to school today, my husband's job is back open and running... In my hometown of Mastic Beach (just 5 minutes away) many have lost everything as well. It's devastating. I pray for everyone touched by this storm.

  5. Thinking of you and a fast recovery for you, your family and your beautiful state!

    Maryalicia Verdecchia

  6. You know, I don't think a single person who reads this blog would ever fault you for doing what you need to do. I hope that most would encourage it actually. Get you and your family back on your feet. Don't worry about us.