Truly scary

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HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

I wish it were different this year. Normally, I’d be all excited and geeked out about it being Halloween. But then, Hurricane Sandy hit, and it changed a whole lot.

It’s still surreal that a storm of such force slammed NJ and hit hardest right where I grew up. I realized the majority of my FB friends are from the East Coast, because whenever someone posted about something other than the storm, I was surprised. Over the weekend when they were talking about the storm, I thought it would just be like the other hurricanes over the years: a little flooding along the coast, some trees and power lines knocked down, but nothing major. I remember how we all panicked back in 1985 with Hurricane Gloria. We were evacuated, and went to stay the night at my friend Tracy’s house since they were at a much higher elevation than we were in Atlantic Highlands. And then nothing really happened. I think we got some water in the basement, but that was pretty much it. (And water in the basement at that house was nothing new… happened almost any time it rained hard.)

On Monday, everything became more severe. The flooding was already starting, and spots along the shore were already underwater. People were being evacuated, and I got pretty scared. My sister and I talked to our dad, who lives in a coastal zone only a few blocks from the bay, and he said he wasn’t going to evacuate. He was still of the same mind that this storm wouldn’t be as bad as they were saying it was gonna be. But yeah, as the hours went by and the news kept coming in about how bad it was getting, we got VERY worried about him. (Not necessarily his wife, of course. She could stay in a dangerous, flooded house and we wouldn’t blink an eye.)

Yesterday I had to stay home to take care of my back and sciatic nerve, so I was glued to FB and the internet for the latest news about what had happened back home. It just got worse and worse.

Entire houses were pulled from their foundations and were drifting in the flood water or were blown out to sea. Boats in the Atlantic Highlands marina were thrown up and into the neighborhoods, so several houses actually had damage from boats hitting them in addition to the expected hurricane damage. It seemed like almost every friend on FB lost a tree or even a car in the storm. A LOT of big trees came down. One of my friends posted a photo she’d taken while driving down route 36– someone’s back porch was in the highway. It had been ripped off a house, and was now floating into the road. Crazy!

The photos and videos just make me so sad. I keep getting all emotional and crying, the more I see. I am really upset about Seaside and the other boardwalks, because that’s what NJ is all about, to me. Those boardwalks are so important to all of us in NJ. Everyone went there while growing up, every summer… all our lives. Everyone. I can’t think of a single person back there who doesn’t have very specific memories of at least one or two of those boardwalks. (For the record, my favorites were Seaside, Point Pleasant, Ocean City, Asbury Park and Cape May/Wildwood.) Like, Remember when Asbury was beautiful in the 1970s, and then it went to the crackheads in the 80s? And then it was brought back from the dead in the 2000s by a thriving, passionate gay community? Or Remember going to Wildwood after the senior prom? Or Remember when Kid’s World burned down in 1986, down in Point Pleasant? That sucked! Or Remember going to Keansburg and steering clear of the white trash that congregated along the beach there? But it was worth going there because the games were great, and that italian ice place was the best.

Every single morning from 1993-1997, I drove down Ocean Avenue in Seabright to go to college. We lived in Belford at the time, so I’d take 36 down, over the bridge, and follow that road all the way down to Monmouth. I took that route in particular because as you go east on 36 through Highlands, you can see the ocean ahead. Then you go over the drawbridge and get a great view of the water right beyond the ocean retainer wall. I always looked for whales! I always had hopes that I’d happen to spot a tail or a waterspout in those few minutes I had, but I don’t think I ever did. Sometimes, if the weather was bad, the waves would crash up against the retainer wall, and you’d see water splash up over the rocks! One time, during finals for the fall semester, I remember I was driving home during a really bad storm. I had to detour through Little Silver and Rumson because Ocean Ave. had flooded when the ocean came over the wall. I turned left at the intersection below. It looked like this, back then:

Hurricane Sandy turned it into this:

I am just stunned. It’s insane.

One of the worst things about yesterday was not being able to get in touch with our Dad. None of the phones were working. Miraculously, a girl I know on Facebook messaged me and offered to walk over and check on my Dad! I was floored that she would do that. I haven’t seen her in over 20 years, since we were in Girl Scouts together! But I guess once a troop member, always a troop member, right? She went to his house and let him call me on her cell phone. He was so happy and incredulous that he could call us! He had no electric since 8pm Monday night, no phones or internet…nothing. Fortunately he has a gas water heater so they could still take warm showers. But there’s no sign as to when the electric will come back on at this point.

I finally heard from Kristen this morning. She’s in the dark, too, and she’s not even on the shore. They have no electric or phones either. She finally got cell service after driving around for awhile. She said it’s so trippy, how everything is dark and everyone’s learning to live “like it’s the 1700s or something.”

And if all goes according to plan, tomorrow I will be there, staying as a guest in her 1700s-style house.

That’s because T and I are going back for her friend Amy’s wedding on Saturday.

We’ve been planning the trip since July or so. No one had a clue this would happen. As of right now, Amy’s wedding is still on (fortunately, it’s a smaller wedding at a restaurant) and our flight to Newark is still on schedule. What kind of NJ we’ll be landing in is another story. Nothing’s on schedule, nothing is working out.

The schools in Middletown will be shut down until November 13.

Kristen warned me to bring lots of warm clothes because they have no heat, and don’t expect a hot shower. They’re boiling water to bathe in. This is so crazy…! We don’t know if the electric will come back on while we are there, or not. How frickin’ weird is that?! It will be like camping. In suburban NJ. It’ll be like that show Revolution. I hope it won’t be completely apocalyptic, but we’ll see how it goes. As of now, the looting is starting, sadly. It’s really, really scary and disgusting.

But people are pulling out the kindness in droves, though. Left and right, friends who fared better than others are offering to help anyone who needs a place to stay or a hot shower. Some men are driving out in their trucks to bring water or batteries to people who need them, or offering to cut apart fallen trees. No one’s asking to be paid, of course. It’s definitely heartening to witness all of this on Facebook right now. It’s such a community back there, it really is. I mean, my friend from Girl Scouts absolutely did not have to offer to do that. I hadn’t even considered asking anyone to go check on my Dad, thinking they all have problems of their own! But yet, she still did ask, and it made such a tremendous difference for my family.

I absolutely love New Jersey. I always have, of course. And you guys who read my blog know how serious I have been about my love, for awhile now… and how I want to move back home soon.

This tragedy almost makes me want to move back even more.

I can’t explain it. It’s just that I feel a pull to be there, to help it bounce back, to help out people who might need it… people who would help me, or have helped me. I don’t even know most of my neighbors out here in AZ, and I never have. And the ones I do know are weirdos that freak me out. I couldn’t imagine people out here pulling together to help each other if a catastrophe hit here. What I think would happen would be much more of an “every man for himself” situation, with people hoarding supplies and leaving town as soon as word came that there was trouble coming. They’d probably even leave their PETS behind, if the foreclosure crisis was any indication of people’s behavior when they are forced to leave their homes. It’s just different out here. No one has long-term roots. It would be very nice if I was wrong about the community-factor kicking in… if people did turn out to be helpful to others even if they had nothing to gain by doing so… but I swear to God, I can’t imagine it. It’s very different out here. (I know it’s the same story in Vegas, Cupcake Blonde, right?) Must be something about cities that are migratory and not full of a stationary population. Mehh.

So, I don’t really know what to expect when (and if) we get to NJ tomorrow. I will take lots of photos, for sure. Part of me doesn’t even want to go anymore, knowing the whole trip is going to be strained and sad.

But I do know that T and I have some incredible friends there, and they’re taking this so well. I know we’re going to find ways to have fun, and we’re going to laugh really hard like usual… it’ll be so good to be there with them.

I wonder if NJ will ever look the same again. I mean, will the boardwalks all rebuild? So many structures cannot be replaced. I got all teared up when I saw a photo of the merry-go-round at Keansburg, crushed by a building. Where do you go to get a new carousel, for Christ’s sake? Who knows? Anyway, I really do have high hopes that things can and will get back to normal at some point in the future. Hopefully not too far into the future, but still. It has to happen.

It’s New-fuckin’ Joisey! Only the strong survive! 🙂

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One response »

  1. To answer your question, yes it’s the same in Vegas. No sense of community or togetherness. It took us 8 years to finally get neighbors we like. We still don’t know my MIL’s neighbors and she has lived there for 9 years!

    The pictures of New Jersey are so devestating. I can’t watch a lot because it makes me so sad that I never did get to the Jersey Shore and I’m not sure if it will ever be like it was after this. But the stories of people coming together are heartening. I am glad you are going back at this time. Your people need you!

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