No matter what, New Jersey is always and forever strong.
Almost everyone in New Jersey and the neighboring states can remember what they were doing at the end of this past October. Whether it was evacuating their homes or boarding up windows, residents along the shore and the surrounding areas prepared for the worst when Hurricane Sandy was predicted to hit. Starting as early as October 26, residents of the Garden State prepared themselves for one of the storms which was anticipated to hit harder than any others in recent years.
And New Jersey was, in fact, hit hard. Thousands of people were left without heat or electricity, some for a few days and some for weeks. Even more people were left without a home at all, or a home that was so damaged that it became unlivable and unsafe.
It is now nearly five months later and the shore still has not been fully repaired. However, out of all of the destruction and heartache, a new mantra was born: “Jersey Strong.”
One of the most well-known towns along the New Jersey Shore is Seaside Heights, exit 82 off of the Garden State Parkway. Infamous today for hosting MTV’s “Jersey Shore” for so many years, Seaside was known for countless other things. Whether it was going to the small, local bakery, taking a whirl on the Centrifuge or just gazing at the beautiful beach houses, Seaside always had a friendly face.
Hosting countless homes, arcades, shops, boardwalk stands and beaches, Seaside was completely devastated. When residents and locals were finally allowed to enter Seaside weeks and weeks after Sandy’s wrath, there was no boardwalk, rides were ripped into the ocean and houses were thrown on top of other homes.
Although it seemed extremely bleak, a beam of hope came out of the annual Saint Patrick’s Day Parade this past Sat., March 9 on the Boulevard in Seaside. For the first time in months, hundreds of people lined the street in anticipation of the event, which many thought would be cancelled.
Even more exciting was that it turned out to be a gorgeous day. Not letting the recent snowfall stop the parade, participants were welcomed with sunshine and spring-like weather.
As per usual, the parade was donned by local business floats, bagpiping groups, old cars and high school marching bands. However, something stronger than just Irish spirit that was apparent throughout the entire parade was the New Jersey pride.
Many floats emanated even more New Jersey pride than usual. The army sported a large truck with a banner reading “Jersey Strong” and “Restore the Shore.” Local boy scout troops waved flags reading “Restore the Shore,” accompanied by a large green state outline. The local Home Depot also sported a truck with large shamrocks reading “Building the Shore stronger and better than before.”
Aside from the parade floats, green “Restore the Shore” shirts seemed to be on nearly every other person lining the street and cheering for the parade participants.
“It was amazing to see so many people come out and see so many people,” said Theresa Debow, long-time resident of Seaside Heights. “It has been so sad these past few months, seeing all the destruction around town. Seeing all of these people celebrating and having a good time made me realize that things can finally start getting back to normal.”
However, the most inspiring aspect of taking a day visit to Seaside was seeing the boardwalk. Stand owners were proudly cleaning their shops and calling out for people to play their arcade games, opening for the first time in months.
Even more inspiring was seeing the boardwalk being rebuilt first-hand. Hundreds of pilings are drilled into the sand, and new, fresh boards are ready to be bolted down on top. Despite the crowd watching them, construction workers hastily work on getting the boardwalk ready for the coming spring and summer.
Despite the support of locals and the effort of the construction workers constantly laboring their days away, it is still disheartening to see what has come of Seaside. The ferris wheel on Funtown Pier barely stands, as the pier around it is completely gone. The log flume, haunted mansion, Centrifuge and Jet Star Coaster are just a few of the many rides that were ripped away from Casino Pier. The long-standing Carousel arcade stands among the rubble, along with countless other stands and arcades.
Although this particular beach town has come a long way since Hurricane Sandy, there is still an immensely large amount of work to be done before everything is back to normal. Taking a short drive down Route 35 into Ortley will show many more houses and businesses were destroyed.
There is still a lot that needs to be done, but the New Jersey Shore will do it. This coming summer after Sandy is the first time that we can show the world just how strong we are, and that we will rebuild even bigger and better than before. The amount of support and dedication that just this one shore town has seen this weekend alone enforces our “Jersey Strong” motto.
Those interested in donating or finding out how to get involved are encouraged to take action, on websites such as New Jersey Strong. Remember where you’re from and present your New Jersey pride.