An Open Letter Re: New Jersey Super Storm Sandy
Dear Fellow New Jersey People,
Is it me, or does it hurt you too?
Watching the news about Idalia brings back some incredibly strong memories of Super Storm Sandy. In fact, even though it's been 11 years since Sandy, I get triggered every time I see reports of hurricanes.
I remember the day like it was yesterday. We were living fulltime in a duplex on LBI, in Beach Haven. It wasn't like the mansions you see today. It was a nice, modest home with a hell of a view.
We saw a report on TV of then-Governor Christie warning us to take the storm seriously. I believe his quote was, "we're not risking the lives of first responders to save some idiot's ass because he chose not to leave." Say what you will, but he spoke my language.
We took enough clothes to last a day or two, packed the kids and dogs, and left for my parents' house in Trenton. Little did we know that would be the last time for months, before we'd return.
On that day, our lives changed forever. Even though we were nowhere near the shore, my parents had no electric for 2 weeks. Our cell phones would work only occasionally. Even though we were safe, we had no idea if we would ever return home. All of our belongings were in Beach Haven.
Incredibly, one of the few messages we were able to receive was that of a picture on a tv screen. NBC News was doing a report in front of our home. Unfortunately, we couldn't see the home well enough to see the damage.
Several months later, we were allowed to return to the island to retrieve essentials and empty the refrigerator. Keep in mind we were year-round residents, we arrived at the causeway at 3am to find traffic stopped for miles.
Over the next few hours, we witnessed the best of humanity, and mostly the worse. Our house survived, although there was sand piled in front, up to our second floor. They used a huge earth mover to clear a walkway. There was a boat lodged in the side of the house and a wave runner in the backyard.
We kept much of our belongs in storage below the house. Most of our belongings were destroyed. As we were pulling the remaining stuff out to dry, strangers would walk by and rummage through our belongings. People are amazing.
The structure itself was intact. There was some damage, but it wasn't as bad as others. Getting our power and water back proved to be frustrating. As one worker put it, "you need to be connected to get connected..."
Our insurance didn't cover water damage. That may sound foolish, but many on the island were in the same situation. We did receive $1500 in aid. That was supposed to be for 6 months lodging.
It was damn near impossible to get correct information about aid. Although, as is the case when these catastrophes hit, there's always that element of people who instinctively know how to scam the system.
Further complicating things, we couldn't find a place to stay, because all the rentals in the area were taken up by workers.
I share this, for a reason. I'm not looking for sympathy. I said it then, and I'll say it now, as much as we lost, there were others who lost more.
I get emotional when I see the storms on tv, or we talk about Sandy. I know I can't be alone.
If you feel overwhelmed and triggered by the pictures on tv, talk to someone. It's ok to be "not be ok" and feel sad. Don't go at it alone.
There is a new hotline to help people in distress. It's free. It's non-judgmental, and it can be a life saver. The number is 9-8-8.
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