Along with the other 1.2 million residents of New Jersey's Ocean and Monmouth counties, my life permanently changed on the evening of October 29, 2012 when Hurricane Sandy hit the Jersey Shore. The seventy-plus days since have been a mixture of the surreal and the all-too-real, a little hope here and a little relief there and a lot of despair everywhere else.
Starting around the beginning of December I began to see small signs of recovery while my wife and I did relief work in Union Beach. The tasks ahead were still huge but people were climbing from the wreckage and working to rebuild. The spirit of the people I met affected me far greater than the destruction around me and I soon realized that the stories of recovery in the face of massive destruction were the stories that needed to be told.
Occasionally the media will feature a story about the Shore in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, but for the most part America has moved on. Meanwhile, residents of the affected areas are beginning to feel the palpable fear that the towns they lived in will never be the same. Businesses are gone and may not come back, the blocks of summer homes we all grew up with may be replaced by the larger, more sterile homes of the people who can afford to build against the fear of another storm. In short, a way of life for 1.2 million people was washed away on the evening of October 29, 2012.
Some call Sandy "New Jersey's 'Katrina'" but it is not. There are some parallels, but to simply call Sandy "New Jersey's 'Katrina'" is to minimize the affects of the storm. It's as if to say, 'sure, Sandy was bad, but it wasn't like Katrina.' The human need to compartmentalize things that fall outside of our comprehension fails us when we simply compare one disaster to another without taking into account the human beings at the core of the story.
That's what I am attempting to do with Inlets and Outlets. The Shore has not recovered, but it is recovering, and it is the journey of reclamation that I hope to chronicle over the next year or so, so the rest of the world can understand that we are indeed "open for business." It's just that those words have a different meaning than they did on October 28, 2012.