“Do you ever have one of those days where everything you ever loved as a child was under water?”
That’s how Daily Show host and New Jersey native Jon Stewart led his first post-Sandy broadcast. And that’s the kind of day I and everyone I grew up with in Highlands, N.J., have been having all week. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to only be mourning memories, as many of my high-school classmates are mourning the loss of their homes and all their belongings. I want to dedicate this blog post to them and to the rest of Monmouth County, and to ask anyone who thinks they’re having a bad day today to look at some of the images below.
A few words about where I grew up: You can joke all you want about the Jersey Shore (Snooki and her friends are from New York, people!), but I’m convinced I spent my childhood in one of the most beautiful places on earth. My memories are of bodysurfing in a wild, gray-blue ocean in the summer; running on a windswept, hard-pack-sand beach in the winter; hiking and running on steep, hilly trails in Hartshorne Woods; picking ruby-red strawberries at Sickles (Jersey produce really is the best on earth!); driving my first car, a hand-me-down 1992 Chrysler LeBaron convertible I paid for with lifeguarding money, down Ocean Avenue in Sea Bright with Bruce Springsteen blasting on the radio; taking the ferry to New York City to see a Broadway play; dipping the doughiest, crustiest bread you can imagine in the tangiest, creamiest vodka sauce you’ve ever tasted at La Pasteria; boat rides on the Navesink and Shrewsbury rivers; and fireworks on the boat in Red Bank harbor, just to name a few. It’s a place where summers are dominated by long beach days and where Bruce Springsteen, who grew up there and still lives there, stops by local bars for impromptu shows. It’s a place that makes me wonder what all the New Jersey jokes are all about, because it’s as beautiful and authentic as anywhere else I’ve been.
I’ve been glued to Facebook and other social media since the storm hit as I watch for posts from friends and former classmates about the damage sustained, the belongings lost, houses underwater or simply washed out to sea. Imagine that—a whole house simply gone, as if a tornado hit rather than a hurricane. To get an idea of how bad the aftermath really is, check out this Tumblr page put together by a friend of a friend, and this video of damage in Sea Bright from the Star Ledger (sorry—I can’t seem to get it to embed).
I write all this for one reason: To implore anyone with the resources to do so to donate to the American Red Cross, and to keep those suffering from the storm’s aftermath in your thoughts.