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Friday, November 2, 2012

Hurricane Sandy. The Point Is, My House Is Still Standing But My Home Has Been Destroyed, Pt 1

Life is filled with things we cannot control and cannot comprehend. It is filled with things that make us wonder why we should even bother in the first place. Cancer, automobile accidents, war, our inhumanity to each other, and the inherent violence of the planet we live on.

For my entire life, I've been warned that what happened this week was going to happen someday. I still can't believe that it actually happened.

I grew up two miles from Bay Head, New Jersey, and the Atlantic Ocean. I fished, and crabbed, and hunted ducks and generally filled my veins with salt water from a very young age. I'm a rare breed where I grew up, being a fourth generation Ocean County-ite. My great-grandfather was the Postmaster of Toms River. My roots here run deep.

When I was twelve years old I spent the summer doing yard work for neighbors to earn enough money to buy a skim board. In the afternoons I rode my bike to the surf shop in Point Pleasant and stared at the orange skimmer with the Hawaiian flowers on it. I bought wax for it before I had saved the money for the board itself. Finally the day came, I bought the board and I took it to the beach. I threw the board into the wash of a wave, ran as hard as I could, hit the board the wrong way, flew through the air and put a tooth through my lip and another in the surf to be washed away with the clam shells. The board stayed put, stuck in the sand like a discus, taunting me with my non-surfer-dude failure.

Point Pleasant Boardwalk, winter 1979
I never used that board again, and eventually threw it out.

Even though I don't live on the shore anymore, I've never lived more than a mile from the river I grew up on. Never will. It's my home.

I grew up on the boardwalks of Point Pleasant and Seaside. When everyone else's vacations were over, me and my friends had the beaches to ourselves. I had opportunities to move elsewhere several times during my life, and even though I pay more for property taxes than any person should be forced to pay, home prices are exorbitant, its too crowded, too many people have moved here from elsewhere to divvy up the slice of the shore, and New Jersey has become a wretched cesspool of political failure, there is no other place I want to be. I can be at the beach in 10 minutes, and life is good at the beach.

What has happened here this week is unprecedented in my lifetime--but not unprecedented in the life time of the Jersey Shore. You see, the Atlantic Ocean owns the shore and is the ultimate arbiter of what goes on here. We mere humans simply borrow our time on the shore until the ocean decides to take it back.

I have a lot to write about, the history, the storm, the politics, and the sheer outpouring of human goodness I have encountered, and it will take days to go through it all. I realize the election is next week, but I have been sharply reminded that things like elections and political differences are tiny charades in between the times the Atlantic Ocean reminds us of her sovereignty.

The bridge from Brick NJ to Mantoloking on the barrier island.
The homes across the bay on the top-center left of the picture
are now gone and and inlet has opened from the ocean to the bay.
This picture was taken 8 hours before Hurricane sandy hit New Jersey.
I have friends who still live on the beach that I have not heard from in five days, I have family members whose homes have been washed away, and through it all I have a newly recharged faith in all of us.

I'm exhausted tonight from doing my small bit to help people recover, and I'm getting ready to do it again tomorrow. In the meantime, hug your family, call your friends and tell them you're happy to know them and remember that in the end, we are merely temporary stewards of all we survey.


Kayla Skiba said...

Eloquently written Jack. The title says it all. Thanks for sharing.

Withum, Smith & Brown said...

We're all going through it now. The resilience that has been shown in the last few days is good reason to never leave the incredible area that we all call home.