By John Montone, 1010 WINS
NEW YORK (1010 WINS) – At 2:30 A.M. on the morning of October 30, 2012 with the wind still raging, Editor Jim Maloney told me, “Try not to get killed.”
The five-minute drive from my house in Glen Rock to Rt. 4 took well over a half-hour. Trees and power lines littered the streets. A right turn here, a left turn there and another roadblock. And who knew if the lines were live?
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When I reach my destination, Jersey City, where we were told downtown was decimated, I stopped at a blockade on Montgomery Street just east of JFK Boulevard.
Fortunately, an EMT manning the post was a 1010 WINS listener and he let me through. “Just don’t go past city hall,” he said. “The water’s still pretty high.”
He was right. As I parked I saw a guy walking, wet and shivering. His name was Ahmed and in broken English he told me his tale. He was a parking lot attendant and he planned to leave before the Hudson River reached the lot, but the surge came suddenly forcing him to run into his booth and curl up on a shelf as the water rose. He stayed there all night waiting to die.
The following week when homeowners were allowed to return to Sea Bright, I took a ride down. Observing the wreckage on that spit of land between the Atlantic and the Shrewsbury River, I got on the air and said, “This place drowned.” Such was the ruin to riverfront homes, beach clubs and bars and most of the stores.
A woman invited me into her house to show me the boulder from the sea wall that was sitting in her living room. A few days ago Sea Bright Mayor Dina Long confirmed what I had reported, telling me that when her Emergency Management Director returned to the deserted beach town he said to her, “It’s gone.”
But today the Sea Bright Supermarket is back in business as is Bain’s Hardware. And while all that is left of Donovan’s Reef is its marquee that announces, “Bar Bands Beach Food,” the mayor said the owners have filed plans to rebuild.
Just north in Union Beach, Luis and Marta Colon still cannot rebuild. As Marta sobbed, Luis explained that their flood insurance settlement was not enough to raise their house above the level of the new flood map. But the Colons haven’t given up. Luis says they want to live near the Raritan Bay for the rest of their lives. “I want to be rolled out on a gurney from that house,” he said.
In neighboring Keansburg, a middle-aged woman named Doris decided to ride out the storm in her bay block house. She realized her mistake when then bay burst over the beach into the street and water started gurgling in her pipes. When her boyfriend pushed open the front door the water poured in.
He grabbed her arm and they waded through as the bay raged down their block. Soon bumper cars and arcade games from the Keansburg boardwalk floated by and Doris thought for sure one of them would knock her out and she would drown.
For months after Sandy, Doris lived in a tiny apartment. When I stopped to chat with her she had just found a new home in Union Beach, three houses from the bay. After what she had gone through I asked, “Why here?”
“I’m from Jersey,” she said, “I love the water.”