Sandy Has Brought Out the Best and Worst of Us

While some lament over the loss of the shore, others work to restore it.

A few hours after the last winds had died down, I took my first walk through the downtown area, down Washington Street and to the river. My neighborhood looked like a demilitarized zone, with uprooted trees and downed power lines.

As I crested Washington Street's highest hill, it was clear that half the golf course at the Toms River Country Club was now a lake. As I pondered what my neighborhood would eventually look like once the hundreds of trees were cleared and the waters receded, I began to see pictures of the devastation elsewhere.

The Atlantic City boardwalk, which just one week prior I had run on as part of the Atlantic City Marathon series, was no longer there. Closer to home, the Seaside Heights I had played at as a child and skulked around as a high school-er was flooded, buried, or worse.

Most of these images, including the now iconic roller coaster in the middle of the surf, started showing up on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram on Tuesday afternoon with captions like, "my childhood has been washed away" and "it will never be the same." The melodrama hit a high note with a poem someone had tweeted about the loss of the locales that had meant so much to his youth.

And as I saw these photos and read the "look at me" yelps of twenty and thirty-somethings making the destruction of Hurricane Sandy all about them, I felt a certain level of disgust for the whole thing.

Partly its my fault for turning to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram hoping to get anything but the self-important drivel that is usually found in the social media. Perhaps I was naive to think people might stop being themselves for a day or two in the face of tragedy.

I realize that it may seem insincere or hypocritical for the guy that usually writes about the restaurants and retail stores he misses from when he was growing up in Toms River, but I'm going to defend my previous articles if only because they weren't written a day after a devastating natural disaster.

When I left my first post-college job of five years for my current position, I fought back the sentimentality with this phrase from Dr. Seuss: "Don't cry because it's over; smile because it happened."

There will be a time to look back and lament over those pictures of me and my sister riding the motorcycles and boat rides at Seaside when we were toddlers, but today in not that day. There will be a sad moment when I lounge around the house in my 2012 Atlantic City Marathon tee and realize it may be a while before they hold a race there again, but today is not that day (yes, this parallelism in from The Lord of the Rings).

Today is a day to smile. Not just because the memories of going on the rides and running races are something the storm cannot wash away. Today is a day to smile because on that same first walk through downtown, I saw neighbors in the lagoon neighborhood dragging their water-logged belongings to the curb while tapping a keg in the middle of their block, turning their despair into fellowship.

Today is a day to smile because my wife and I were turned away at TR North when we tried to donate toiletries because they simply had too much already.

Today is a day to smile because it took me three hours to sort just a fraction of the baby clothes and Chef Boyardee and dog food and shoes and sheets and water that people had poured into the Toms River Football Club field house at Riverwood Park.

This storm took homes, businesses, and lives. But it has given many, including myself, a renewed pride in my community and a restored faith in humanity.

So for those who are sitting there mourning the place you'll never be able to eat a slice of pizza again or grieving for a place you went one time before you could really remember it clearly, get up - get over it - and pitch in. There's work to be done for those who actually lost something in all of this. And something to be found in all of us.

Sarah O'Connor November 07, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Worked the polls at the ice rink in Toms River yesterday - no electric, power, of course no heat - four ladies freezing at the polls. Must thank all the people who brought coffee, hand & feet warmers for us and WA WA who brought us hot soup and hot chocolate - thank you so very much!!!! Special thanks to some very nice State Trooper, Toms River police officers for helping us with the propane heater. A special, special thank you for Jeff & Claire for the propane heater - without that we would have frozen all day! So many special people and I'm thankful to all of you! Sally
dk51 November 09, 2012 at 10:59 PM
A Citizen November 09, 2012 at 11:31 PM
I can agree and disagree with this article. The author seemed to be doing the same things he criticized others for doing in the first few paragraphs. Not everyone grieves the same way. A lot of people think of themselves and their family first whenever a situation like this occurs. That does not make them bad people, only human. Many looked at the devastation and cried not only for what they lost but what others have lost as well. I know I was upset when I saw many of my childhood memories destroyed and even posted about it on Facebook. I was also out there dropping of food and clothes and supplies to many shelters as well as helping those in my neighborhood clean up from the aftermath. Many people might have been saying "Oh poor me" for just losing electricity but that is how they grieve. I wouldn't say it is bringing out the "Worst" in people. Don't get me wrong, there a lot that are showing their bad side with the negative remarks and the looting. However, to categorize so many people, twenty and thirty-something year-old's, is a poor choice of words. I have seen many people of all ages posting similar remarks. I can definitely see the authors point but like I said, I agree and disagree.
Rachel Tomasi November 09, 2012 at 11:44 PM
Amen. Got my power back. Catching up online and can't stop the tears for all the ppl whose lives were turned upside down. Tonight's the night for me to cry since my kids come home from NY tomorrow. I'm physically not gonna be useful to rebuild and my car is basically useless to go more than the corner store, but when I get pd this wk and my new car is bought which had to be put off a couple wks bc of everything (my cosigner comes from ny and the day we were supposed to go he was rushing my kids to a heated home) but once I'm not broke from trips to the diner with a big family (thank you 4 seasons for having and SHARING a generator!!!!) to warm up charge phones and use wifi a bit and all the batteries flame less candles etc from rite aid I WILL b paying it fwd! Together we can do this! In shifts. Just when I thought my tearful shift was over a number of utility trucks pulled up on our block and I got to thank a truck full of standing room only hard working men, from what state idk as it was dark but it was def not a jcp&l truck and that started the water works again. They are such good hard working ppl that tho I was as cold and achy as anyone idk how ANYone can blame them!!
Roseann heckel November 10, 2012 at 03:07 PM
Wow so true! I agree get up n do something Perfectly said,n if I can add 1more thing do not worry about those who r doing wrong or taking advantage I strongly believe"what goes around comes around/karma"so put ur sadness to work!!!


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