Weathering the Storm: A Brief Message After Hurricane Sandy

A photo I took yesterday, at the harbor of Atlantic Highlands. Boats now rest on what used to be Sissy’s, a popular waterfront diner.

Now that the power is back on and my hiatus from blogging is over, I just wanted to let everyone know that my family and I are fine, and I also want to express my deepest sympathies for those in nearby towns that were affected by Hurricane Sandy, as I will elaborate on later. The atmosphere surrounding this event is surreal, and the area is completely devastated. For that reason, I wanted to share this Facebook movement that my friend, actor Fred Griffith, created, to begin to get the wheels in motion on a charity event for hurricane relief of the east coast. I was asked to contribute my thoughts, and I sent him this brief message:

When I teach my students about war, I try to give them vivid details so that they might get a slight idea of what life is like when homes get destroyed, and communities torn apart. Little did I know that these students, and to a lesser extent, myself, would get to witness firsthand what a war zone looks like. Lucky for me, my town was spared for the most part, save for a lot of downed trees, power lines, and a few days without electricity. As I sat here complaining about not having the internet, nearby towns, some just a mile or two away, were completely decimated. Boats floated down main street in Keyport, more than 500 houses were swept away in Union Beach, and thousands of people were forced from there homes in Atlantic Highlands, Port Monmouth, Leonardo, parts of Middletown and other coastal towns. On my way to helping a friend in Rumson clean out her office today, I saw things I thought I would never see in person, and only on the news or in Hollywood: houses ripped apart, and boats laying haphazardly on streets and in driveways, on rooftops and upside down on the land that used to be a marina. The once beautiful harbor of Atlantic Highlands is nearly gone, a yacht now resting on the deck of a once very popular waterside restaurant, as the National Guard has the area roped off and under watch. Seaweed and debris from the ocean and bay is scattered on the closest highway to the shore, which is probably a good three or four miles away, while water lines are visible on the sides of houses, showing just how high the flood waters came.

Lines for gas mount up with waits bordering on three hours in what can be seen as a post-apocalyptic setting for the people in these shore towns. The moments of seeing all of this, combined with the pictures that are finally coming in over the internet makes it surreal. It is almost unbelievable, that this could happen to us in New Jersey, even though we always knew the threat lingered and wanted to keep it out of our minds. I do not know anyone who was killed as a result, but I do know many people whose houses are gone, either completely or partially. Thankfully, they are safe and with their families now, but it really makes the event hit home. Many of the students I teach and hockey players I coach are located in this coastal “war zone”. The electricity might not be restored for at least another week, and stores and restaurants cannot open either, because of this very reason. This is why they need your help. Shipments of food and gasoline are coming in, but it is not enough, because there are just too many affected. I do not want to draw comparisons between this and other disasters around the country, because each is unique, but for this region of the Garden State, this is the catastrophe that will go down in our history as “the one”, unless another one comes along in the future. If you have the means to help, please consider doing so. You do not realize the difference one person can make, cause when multiplied by the hundreds of volunteers who are already wanting to pitch in, it WILL make a difference. Drive through the area and see for yourself. Take a look at where houses once stood, see the damaged furniture laying on the side of the road ready to be picked up by garbage trucks, and above all, see the people and talk to them–hear their stories, and learn firsthand. 

These words cannot even accurately illustrate the devastation of the area, nor can the pictures that have been taken. At a later time, I will post a “Cheers and Jeers” article regarding my observations of the best and worst I have seen during the aftermath of the hurricane. I want to wait just a little bit, because if there is one thing we can all do without right now, it’s cynicism. Take care, everyone!

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