NORMANDY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A holiday tradition born out of tragedy continues at the Jersey Shore.
A Christmas tree right next to the ocean has been a tradition in Normandy Beach since Superstorm Sandy.
“We were all Sandy Survivors, lived here on the island, afterwards didn’t leave. It is a beacon of hope,” Rick Lill said.
The town was completely washed over. The bay and ocean met sending Kathleen Murray Nolan’s Christmas ornaments across the island into Rick Lill’s home on the bay.
“Most of us had missed a Christmas being elsewhere,” she said.
Some homes are still being rebuilt, so to raise spirits a tree adorned with starfish and seashells shined bright on Second Ave for the fifth year.
Lill helps put it up every year along with the Hofstetter family
“Every year this gets more and more. You can see some for people that are hurt or sick,” Lill said.
Next to the evergreen sits a bucket of shells and markers.
A sign invites passersby to write a positive message and hang it on the community tree.
“That is a true Jersey Shore tree. I don’t know how you could make it any more Jersey Shore unless you hung dead fish on it,” Nolan said.
Nolan runs an extension cord from her house to light the tree.
“I’m the luckiest because I live right here and get to see everyone come up, take pictures, pose for Christmas cards with kids, so beautiful. This has become our tradition,” she said.
Neighbors said they are forever bonded because of Sandy, and now the tree — a symbol of their resiliency.