Stronger Than...5 Years Later

October 29,'s pouring rain outside.  My backyard is becoming a swampy lake.  How appropos that today is the day that we mark the 5th anniversary of Superstorm Sandy.

Jersey Strong.  Stronger than the Storm.  Slogans that we chanted and songs that were sung.  We believed.  We proved our strength.  Now five years have passed. We are still Jersey strong.  We will ALWAYS be Jersey Strong; stronger than any storm or ANYTHING that life might throw at us.  (That includes the lousy "jokes" and cracks that outsiders like to throw.)

Have we "restored" the shore?  Yes and no.

Things have been "rebuilt."  Houses are BIGGER and higher up than ever.   It seems every small patch of land that has been beaten down, a larger, "stronger" structure has been put in its place. It's necessary, I suppose, but to see the small little cottages that dotted the shore line in my youth disappear is sad.  Camp Osborne is no more.  It burned to the ground; house by house with no one around or able to contain it.  There is no way to rebuild the precious memories that lived there for generations.

Also gone is one of my favorite landmarks, Our Lady Queen of Peace, a still thriving church that had marked the entrance to Normandy Beach for over 60 years.  A treasured piece of history and a legacy no more.  It's parking lot, once the site of fun flea markets and a place where you could park when the spots close to the beach were full, was fenced off to use as a holding area while construction was being done on the highway after the storm.  On this former sacred site will sit 21 town homes once construction is completed.  Restored?  Although I was not a parishioner, as I walk by this decimated plot, I cry a bit inside.  (And when "groundwater" and rain runoff from his site is pumped into the nearby lagoon generating strange odors and foam I have to wonder if this is what we can call restoration?!)

The beach has been rebuilt.  The sand restored...and washed away and restored.   That is nature's process; although the washing away seems to happen faster than it once did. High walls and dunes created to protect.  (I pray that it does.)  The beach I knew growing up (and my son knew from birth until 2013) are gone. And while I still love it, it just doesn't "feel" the same.

The shore may have been rebuilt and to a certain extent "restored" but it will never feel the same.  Something WAS washed away.  It wasn't just memories.  It was the simple heart of the area.  That can't be rebuilt or restored.  What made the area so special and unique is gone.  In an era where cookie cutter town homes on a plot of land between two highways replace a beloved house of worship it is obvious to me that rebuilding does NOT restore the shore.

What didn't need to be rebuilt or restored is the spirit of many of the residents of the area. Those who refused to let the harsh circumstances get them down.  Those who have a love for the ocean and the bay.  Those who respect this small strip of land.  Those who care for it with every fiber of their being.  They ARE the spirit of the shore.  They ARE the Jersey Shore.  And they are the ones who keep that small piece of "what used to be" even as what might come challenges them.  As long as people like this (and I'd like to count myself among them), exist, then in my mind, "restored" or not, the heart of the NJ shore will continue to beat.

(I am not alone in my observations of the lingering effects of Sandy.  This article tells another side of the story:


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