|An emotional goodbye from my host Pam Maguire. (photo by Asbury Park Press)|
Emotions still run high as the stories of the storm are repeated one more time. In Mantoloking there is a whole stretch of beach front, where along the road there are stone walls and elegant entryways, one after the other. But the large houses are all gone - washed into the ocean.
|There were no empty lots in this town before Sandy.|
|Small house being raised.|
The boardwalks were one of the first things to get repaired, while many homeowners are still not back in their houses. But then a fire caused by a small business who didn't repair the wiring after the storm, a large section of the boardwalk and all of the businesses were destroyed.
I heard from people who evacuated, and a few others who stayed through the storm. Those who stayed lost all of their vehicles. Those who evacuated at least had the ones they drove away.
When people evacuated, they took just an overnight bag, expecting to be back in a few days. But it was months before people could get back into Lavelette. They were refugees and weren't even allowed to drive in and see how their homes had fared. Eventually the authorities arranged buses to bring people in for a visit. But each person had to hand in their driver's licensee before being allowed to board the bus. The authorities were worried some people would want to stay in their homes.
Talking with people who are still not back in their homes almost two years later, the feelings are still so raw. They told me of watching while their damaged house was torn down, with tears welling up. There is a waiting list of years to get a local builder, or even a prefab module.
Someone may think that it's the wealthy who have homes on these barrier islands. But visiting during October means I'm talking with the handful of year round residents, and they are not the ones with money.
The Seaside Rotary Club was such a generous host while I was here - sharing their stories, driving me around to see the effects of Sandy, arranging for press coverage, making a generous donation to Safe Passage, taking care of my kayak and hosting me for two nights. I joined them for their first meeting in their new "home". It's taken them two years to find a place to meet since the restaurants where they met in the past have not yet reopened after Sandy.
|Seaside Rotary Club, in their new "home".|