Recovery, Rebuild and Restore

It’s just about 4 weeks that have passed since Sandy hit the Jersey Shore and NYC, the process of picking ourselves up and cleaning up is in full swing now. Over the past weekend, we took a ride through Sea Bright, NJ and were brought right back to our feelings of dread, horror and sadness of just a few weeks ago.

Sea Bright is right out of a war zone. Buildings are damaged, destroyed and some are just plain gone. Many of the structures are now marked with a big red X. There are sand drifts on the side of the road, as if it snowed sand. Boats, big and small were tossed around by the sea, littered and left stuck and sunk on the little islands in the river. Hundreds of boats left all over the place. I believe many of them will need to be demolished. The town will most likely rebuild in time, but the town as you may have known it in the past is now gone.

The clean-up process for us started right away, luckily. Cam has worked so hard to clear out all of the damaged parts of our crawl space and first floor. Everything is gutted. My first floor is a huge mess that is now a construction site. My upstairs is filled to the gills with random stuff from downstairs. I cannot find anything in the mess upstairs. In fact, it is difficult to move around up there, let alone find anything.

This past week we made some decisions and ordered appliances, a new couch and chair, chose paint and a new countertop, and chose new flooring. Those decisions, while sounding nice are very difficult to make when you didn’t have it in your mind to renovate. All of those items cost an arm and a leg and are just so expensive! The stress under normal renovating circumstances is quite high, but imagine if suddenly a catastrophe comes and now you have to deal with the fact your house was damaged, people are homeless or in the same boat as you are and here you are now trying to make a decision on which stove you like better? Trust me, it is so difficult to focus on purchasing items. But, thankfully it’s done and behind us.

Now we just need to wait for the insurance numbers to come through and for us to really get started with repairing the house so we can go home. Lining up people to hang sheet rock or getting someone to do insulation, check electric or plumbing is very difficult. There’s SO much damage here, all those guys are so overwhelmed with the amount of work there is out there. You have to wait your turn.

With Christmas just 4 weeks away, it just doesn’t feel very festive or even spiritual in our area. Sure, there are so many people who were not affected by the hurricane who will continue their traditions and enjoy the holiday season. But, for many of us, the upcoming holidays are just another day, a day to maybe do some work because we want to go home and are off of work for the holiday. We can celebrate later. I know Christmas is for the children and for celebrating the birth of Jesus but I can’t even get into buying any gifts. I’m also not doing Christmas cards this year. My spirit is very heavy now, I can’t put up my tree, I can’t even get to my Christmas decorations or stockings for the kids. My mom will put up a small tree and we will celebrate Christmas together in spite of our heavy hearts. My brother recently moved to California and will be coming home for Christmas for a visit. That is something we are looking forward to.

Those above are images from our ride up Ocean Ave. in Sea Bright on up to Sandy Hook. Ship Ahoy Beach Club was just one of the many destroyed beach clubs in Sea Bright. They had demolished it prior to our ride. Here’s a link about some of the destruction in Sea Bright due to the storm. http://www.redbankgreen.com/2012/10/sea-bright-smashed-by-hurricane-sandy.html Once I have my car back, I will take a ride up to Union Beach and then down to Point Pleasant. I hear many homes, as well as the boardwalk were destroyed & damaged up to the train tracks in Point. Many dwellings and businesses in the Bayshore area were destroyed and damaged. People will rebuild. People will recover as they repair not only their homes & businesses, but their lives. Some areas will need years to recover. The devastation was that bad.

Update on me:

My mantra is: “I’m doing okay.” I am. I’m surviving. We are still living with my parents, in the small house. We have new routines and a new “normal.” It’s difficult but we will make it the best we possibly can. My parents opened their home to us and we will be forever grateful. We can never repay their generosity. We are so lucky to have someplace to stay. I cannot even fathom being trapped in some hotel/motel with no car and having to figure out how to get Nicholas home from school and how to feed anyone if we were in a hotel right now. My mom is a lifesaver picking up Nicholas for me each day. So, we are doing okay. Some days are better and some are worse and I cry to my friends on Twitter. No matter what, we will get through and get to go home. Regardless where you live, a house, apartment or a trailer, it is your home. It is where your heart is… no matter what and once you can’t be there for whatever reason, that is when you really discover that fact.

TTFN xoxo~Ro

Updated: https://snbgallery.wordpress.com/?p=6727

 

 

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After the Storm

Ocean Avenue in Sea Bright, NJ. This street was underwater where the ocean and river met and became one. This small town just about gone now.

During the first 2 weeks after the catastrophe called Sandy began, you are still in a shell-shocked state of disbelief. Going for almost 2 weeks without internet access or television is a blessing and a curse during a disaster. A blessing because you are so focused on the here and now without being bombarded with extra images of the chaos going on around you. The curse of the situation is the flip side of not knowing about the chaos around you, because you need the images and stories to know the tale of the neighborhoods in your area.

Information was very hard to come by. Until you are without power, you have no idea how much you rely on those things connected to it. We didn’t know that FEMA was giving out food and water at the racetrack until 8 days after Sandy hit. We did not know because there was no communication and everything we knew was from word of mouth. There was no telephone service for us until the power came back on and the cell service was very spotty and bad at best. Also, there is no way to be fully prepared for the aftermath of something so catastrophic. No matter what you plan for, it isn’t enough, especially after the 2nd or 3rd day without power. A generator is a must but in the end, it still doesn’t replace the convenience of actual power.

Going to the food store, just to grab something for a quick meal was an interesting and difficult feat. Wegmans was one of the only stores, along with Shoprite that happened to re-open right away. At Shoprite, Cam was able to get a freshly cooked/roasted chicken for our dinner that night and a cooked/roasted turkey breast for our lunch. We were able to go to Wegmans and see that they had fresh breads, hot coffee and meat in the meat section. We were able to get the few supplies we needed, thankfully.

What struck me in the food stores was the similarity of all the people shopping. We all were in survival mode, just shocked about what had just happened. It was very quiet in the store over all. You heard some people talk amongst themselves about what they needed, some were talking about the damage they sustained. Their tones were very hushed. Many people were walking around just completely shell-shocked and dazed. Some even just wandered around, not gathering anything. They were just existing while trying to think of what they should buy if anything at all, because how can they cook or store their new food?

It is odd to be out shopping and not find everything you need at one store and maybe have to find 3 or 4 stores open to find what you are looking for. Some places have meat, while others have nothing in their cold sections. Some stores were still boarded up, some were running off of their generators just to run the registers and emergency lights.

This picture above was where Cam and I “met” 12 years ago. It was Donovan’s Reef in Sea Bright.

Honestly, to do anything here is very difficult. Many businesses here at the beach are severely damaged. Our bank branch is still not open yet. The post office in Oceanport is closed indefinitely due to flood damage. Half our area was underwater and even the smallest amount of water has caused a world of damage.

How do I feel, you wonder?

It’s hard to say because I am staying with my parents, who have been wonderful and life savers. I am fortunate to have a warm home to stay at. I am fortunate because my dad and Cam can do a lot of the work on the house themselves. I don’t know what I’d do without them and their generosity during this time. I am so thankful to them!! Many people are displaced, homeless, scared, possibly cold and maybe underfed. I am lucky and I hold on to that.

But, back to examining my feelings….

I am distressed not to be in my own home. Our second car, which my brother loaned us, broke down. Not sure when we will be able to fix it. It, I believe, is last on our very long list of must-do. I rely now on my mom to cart myself and kids around and then on my hubby when he isn’t working on the house or at work. Nicholas goes to school and comes home by car, the bus doesn’t come here. I am angry that a storm of this magnitude came here and screwed up not only my home and routine, but our surroundings as well. I am quite saddened to learn about all of the destruction  in the area I grew up, and am now raising my boys.

I am often on the verge of tears during the day and at night but do my best to choke them back. I do not have the time by myself to let it out and just cry for myself, family and all the people struggling around me. My family may not have it the worst with our damage, but we don’t have minimal damage either. There is substantial damage to our first floor. You wouldn’t believe the gutting that is taking place… because of 8″ of water.

My kitchen, as of  November 12, 2012. Want to come for tea? 😉

Now, I think of Christmas and cannot even entertain it. The thought kills me. This wasn’t my vision at all. I have two little boys, one 7 and one who is 2 and a half. I can’t put up my big tree, I can’t go and do Christmas shopping. Sure, my mom would take me (haha, I sound like I’m 15!) but money is an issue. All our extra money needs to go toward the fixing of my home. I can’t have an influx of toys here at my parents’ house. There just is no room for it. It’s a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom ranch all small rooms, great for my parents, but not for 6 people at one time. It’s sad for me to look at them with Christmas/Santa thoughts. I don’t even want to go there. Don’t feel like doing the Christmas project I had planned with my boys before the disaster happened.

What do I do? I slap a smile on my face and tell everyone that it’s okay, we are fine, it could have been worse for us, it’s not a big deal…. I say all those things because I know people around me lost everything. I minimize my hurt, my sorrow, my frustration. I do my best to hide it because over all, I am a very positive person. I step beside those feelings because I know there is a family just like mine, struggling in unimaginable pain over the loss of all their property. Maybe I shouldn’t do this, but I do. I do it probably because I’ve had people tell me how lucky I am, how people ARE worse off and that insurance will cover it. Those comments always make me feel guilty for my loss and plight. Well, until you walk in the shoes of someone who has lost something, big or small, due to a flood like this, you can’t judge. Trust me, this is no cakewalk. This sucks beyond belief. This is a huge mess, this is a stress, a loss and an unexpected expense. Everyone has to deal with their pain. It’s either now or it may be sometime later. It may not happen for me until I’m back in my house where I may have a few moments alone where I can cry my eyes out and try to move on. To say goodbye to your house & belongings not knowing what you will find when you return is probably one of the most stressful things you can ever encounter. This is not in your control, you are not in charge… Except for the fact of heeding the warnings of the officials, busting your ass to move your belongings to either a second story (if you have one) or trying to get as much stuff off of the floor. Seeing a truck roll up in front of your house with a few guys hop out and go door to door telling you to evacuate is heartbreaking. You know it will be bad, especially when more of them are in your neighborhood than the last go around with evacuation.

I am feeling a little bit better. The repair to my house is progressing. As of yesterday, our ductwork has been repaired and we have heat again in the house. Next step is to get the floor insulated as well as our walls. Then it’s sheet rock, floors, paint, new cabinets, countertop and mouldings. I also think we need a new front door and we need repair to the back of our roof. We lost a lot of the back roof so it will need to be looked at to see if we will need a new roof instead. That is unfortunately not covered by the flood insurance and the deductible for homeowners is too much. So that would have to be an out-of-pocket expense. The damage done to my house and this area is not a long weekend project, it will take months and maybe even years in some cases to restore what has happened to the shoreline communities.

I haven’t processed everything yet. More and more of my first floor is being gutted, there is almost nothing left of what I remember it looking like on October 28. Everything concerning the interior first floor of my home is gone. My crawl space is gutted. My neighborhood is like a ghost town. The work in this area will take a long time to get done for many. Not much here is the way I remember it just a few weeks ago. The beach pictures I took of the boys about a month ago have much different meaning to me now. The beach will not look the same here for a very long time. So much of it is gone.

My boys, before the storm…

I’m sure I’ll have more to say again in a few days… I know this blog is for my beloved S&B but I need an outlet. I appreciate all the support, outpouring of love and am humbled by all of you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

TTFN xoxo~Ro

Hurricane Sandy

On Sunday, October 28 we were anticipating Hurricane Sandy’s impending arrival here, at the Jersey Shore. Yes, I live at the Jersey Shore. born and raised. The beach and ocean are in my blood and soul. At first, because of Hurricane Irene last year, many were not worried. But, as the storm approached, it seemed to be targeting our beloved shoreline as well as the NYC boroughs and shoreline. On Sunday morning, I saw the news as my husband was out buying duct tape for the windows and driving by the beach to see the waves. The news was ominous and becoming very scary as we saw this ginormous storm approaching our small state. It was then that I started gathering to evacuate and taking personal belongings upstairs, to the second story of our house. They kids were getting nervous and my dog was outside, growling and barking at the wind. Once I let him inside, he laid down on the couch, facing our slider, low tone growling at the weather.

My husband called to let me know that the ocean was very angry and he did not have a good feeling about this storm. Meanwhile, several fire and police men showed up at our door telling us we had to be out of the house by 4pm for a mandatory evacuation. When Cam arrived home, we busted our butts gathering our stuff, looking for important papers and lugging our heavy furniture upstairs. Unfortunately, a few large pieces had to stay downstairs. In the backyard we moved our Honda that my husband has been working on and our small boat into the middle of the back yard. Cam ran around buttoning things up, cramming items into our shed. Finally, we were done as much as we could be. After working for about 4 or 5 hours, we loaded up our cars, one ours, and one borrowed from my brother and said good luck and good-bye to our house.

For the immediate future, we were to stay at my parents house, on the other side of town, which is on higher ground. The 4 of us crammed ourselves with an amazing amount of stuff into my parent’s small, 2 bedroom, one bathroom ranch. There are now 6 of us sharing this house. But, we were safe and now terrified for our house, belongings and our neighbors. I knew in my heart things would not be the same after this storm.

That evening we had dinner with my parents and did our best to settle in. As I laid down to sleep with Noah, I could hear the wind get stronger and the trees creaking in the wind. Monday morning arrived. Cam went to check on the house and the water from the river was already up to our driveway. I had a small panic attack happening inside of me when he told me. So, he came back, picked up Noah and me, Nicholas wanted to stay behind with grandma, and we drove over to the house again, so I could remove some of our other belongings and put them upstairs. When we arrived at our house, the water was half way up the driveway and we had to park at the corner of our street and another side street. We trekked through our neighbors’ yard and up to our front steps.

It was eerie to be in our neighborhood and house. The neighborhood was empty of normal activities, no children playing in the warm air, no lawn mowing, no dogs outside barking. Inside of the house was cold, bare and appeared like we were moving. We took our family pictures off of the walls and gathered our picture frames and some other food in the pantry. Cam looked out the window and panicked when he saw that the water rose up to the bottom of our porch, but not quite to the stairs. We hustled to get out of the house before the three of us were trapped and before the water reached our car.

We went back to my parents and resigned ourselves to whatever will happen to the house. There was nothing we could do. It is a very helpless feeling when you know in your heart that something crazy can happen and there’s nothing in your power to stop it. I was and still am on the verge of tears because of that helpless, lost feeling.

That Monday night was very difficult for any sleep. We lost power at 8:04pm exactly. Cam was up most of the night. We were expecting a super high tide around 11 pm. Super high tide due to a few things. The storm surge for one was pretty big and on top of that, we were at full moon time for the month of October. Those two things combined is very hard when you live by the water. Pretty much anything can happen.

Cam went to check around 2 am or so. He had to park closer to rt. 36/Joline Ave. and walk thru the river water down the blocks, about 2 of them and around to our house. The water had surrounded our house and he could see the high tide line up, over the bottom part of the windows. He waded thru the water and made it into the house, where he noticed our entire first floor was wet, maybe an inch or 2 of water left, but the damage was already done.

He came home to me around 4:30am and woke me up to tell me the news. I’ll be honest, at first, I was relieved. Yes, our crawl space we knew would flood. We planned for water to be in our house but really not prepared for the feelings of despair, the feeling of true helplessness left behind in its wake. I thought about it for a moment and told my husband that we were lucky we only had that damage. We then started to worry about all our neighbors and friends in the surrounding areas who lost everything, contents and/or homes.

Yes, contents can be replaced. Houses can even be replaced. But first you have to deal with the aftermath of the reality of not only your situation, but everyone else’s around you. It is not an easy task to say the least. It is very difficult to imagine what has happened around you. There was little to no media information to obtain. 101.5 lost power, came on briefly and lost power about 15 minutes into the broadcast. We found a station that channel 7 Eyewitness News were transmitting from thankfully. It helped that first day but was very surreal to know they were doing live feeds from our area. Pier Village, Channel Club in Monmouth Beach, Seaside and other locations we knew well. From the sound of it, we were screwed. Most roads  were impassable, no stores open, sirens everywhere, trees, HUGE trees down all over the place.

The beach, the sand was in the middle of Ocean Blvd. The whole boardwalk in Long Branch was torn up like a demo team came in and tore it up. Some of the boardwalk was taken out to sea. We heard that the Fun Town Pier in Seaside was ruined and the rollercoaster was in the ocean. No one had power in my area. 70% of NJ was without power. Our cell service was almost non-existent. I personally, did not have cell service until that Friday and even then, it was still spotty.

Cam took my mom, the boys and me over to the house. We saw some of the devastation on our way there, but still did not know the full extent. At the house, there was garbage everywhere. The storm had hit right before our garbage day, so everyone had very full cans. The leaves, branches, twigs and random belongings were everywhere. We went inside the house and it smelled of the river, a dirty, stinky mess was all over our floor. The floor Cam installed himself 2 years ago in  December. So, I guess it never made it to its 2nd birthday. Sheet rock was still wet, some of the mouldings we did have up were wet. Our leather chair had a water line on it of about 6 to 8″ off of the floor.

The boat in the backyard floated off on the trailer and sank in the back yard. Our Honda was submerged and totalled. The swing set we got for Nicholas and Noah was ruined. Flipped on its side and I think the wood cracked and now was stuck in the swamp in my back yard. The water line on our shed was 3/4 the way up the side. Cam checked the crawl space and all of the insulation had become heavy with water and fell to the floor, it all was soaked and ruined. The duct work underneath the house had filled with river water and mud and collapsed under the force and weight of the water. We have electrical boxes under the house, too that are damaged. But, again…. We are lucky.

I didn’t lose clothing or pictures, I didn’t lose a life or anything irreplaceable; just a few things and the house took the brunt of the damage. Again, we were lucky. SO THANKFUL for the hard work Cam and I did the day before we got hit.

Days passed, still no power at my parent’s or our house. It took 11 days for power to come back in West End for us. It took 13 for it to come back in North End, were we live. There are still people without power, without homes, some cannot even get into their towns because they were so badly damaged and almost wiped off of the map.

Any of you who spend summers here at the shore have very specific memories about fun times at the beach, boardwalks, restaurants and parks. Most of that is gone or will have to be demolished. You will not be able to visit those places next summer. I hear Sandy Hook may be closed for a few years because it was so badly damaged. Sea Bright is almost non-existent, most of the bayshore communities: Union Beach, Keyport, Keansburg were destroyed. Rumson flooded, as well as Oceanport, Belmar and other local shore communities near me. Many lives are on hold right now. Things are chaotic, there’s looting, people are homeless, people are without power and are very cold.

We were very fortunate for my friend Jeanne and her luck. A friend was bringing a brand new generator up from NC on Thursday after the storm. Her power came back that very day and she loaned us the generator! We picked it up from her on Friday. We were warm for the first time in days!!

Growing up, my family were avid campers. We’d go camping for about 2 weeks every summer. So, we had some gear. We have a Coleman camp stove that we connected to propane and used that for most of our cooking outside. We also used our grill. We were able to purchase a few supplies here and there and we actually did okay. But, I can tell you this, it wasn’t easy. Modern day people are not meant to live “Little House on the Prairie” style. We went to bed at 8pm every night, got up when the sun came up. Then we had the time change and that screwed us up even more. But, we made it thru.

We were able to get insurance adjuster to come out right away and for FEMA to come to inspect. The FEMA lady measure 81″ water line on the outside of my house. The water did rise to just over the bottom of our windows. We were surprised it had really gone that high. Let me tell you this, 8″ of water in your house does waaaaay more damage than you think. I can’t imagine if it has risen to 2 feet in the house what would have been the outcome.

Meanwhile, Cam and my dad have been working very hard on the demo of the damaged first floor. All floors need to be removed, window mouldings, door mouldings (I think we need a new door anyway), 4 feet of sheet rock and insulation all the way around the first floor, our slate floor in the bathroom and kitchen cabinets. We also need new appliances for the kitchen.

It’s a long road. Nicholas finally went back to school this past week. My brother’s car he loaned to us has broken down. We only have one car now, until the other can be fixed.  A new normal is trying to establish itself. I don’t know what is in store for all of us here. But what I do know is this:

Be thankful for what you have, today, at this precise moment. Take in the area you live in and absorb the sights, smells and feeling you get from them. You never know when those things will be changed in a blink of an eye, possibly forever.

I am thankful I don’t need to stay at Tent City in the Monmouth Park parking lot in Oceanport and that I have family to stay with. I am thankful for all of those who can stay at Tent City and are not homeless on the street. I am thankful everyone I know is safe from the storm. They may have issues like I do in our house but they will survive, just like my family and me. We are survivors in NJ. Not much gets us down. We fight, claw and work our way back to where we need to be. Things will be bigger, stronger and better once all the work is done and the healing begins.

Speaking of healing, some people I went to school with have come together and started a group called, Jersey Rising. They are planning a HUGE benefit concert/fundraiser for the shore communities where we grew up together and are now raising our children.

To find out more information and to join in the movement, please follow them on Twitter @JerseyRising and on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/jerseyrising?ref=ts&fref=ts

Please help us recover and get out spirit back. We need support in this trying time. The holidays are coming, things are very difficult here, but we will come together and make it through. I wish I could get out and help, I wish there was more I can do. What I can do here, from my computer, is get the word out about Jersey Rising and help make that happen. I believe in the people running it, I believe in the acts they are trying to line up. Think NJ, think of the possibilities of who could be the acts if it works out and they get the publicity they need to make it happen. 😉

Thank you for reading about my plight during the storm. Please keep a prayer or two for the people of this area and the NY areas devastated by this crazy storm.

Please donate to: https://sandynjrelieffund.org/index.html

TTFN xoxo~Ro

Here’s the link to part 2: https://snbgallery.wordpress.com/2012/11/19/after-the-storm/