Hurricane Sandy Anniversary – My Story (Gregory Andrus)

With the 5th anniversary of Sandy just a couple of weeks away, and with Portraits of the Jersey Shore’s doing a weeklong series on the the people impacted by Sandy, I am going to share with you all my story of Sandy. But this story is so much more than may story… It is really in honor story of the hundreds of neighborhoods all around the shore that went through the disaster that was Sandy, some to this day struggling to fully recover.…

My family stayed overnight at our dear friends’ house on the west side of Toms River when Sandy struck. We woke up in the middle of the next to a text from a neighbor who lived across the street from us, that decided to stayed in their home. The told us that their jet ski smashed into their back sliding glass door from a wall of water that came out of nowhere, and they had to evacuate in chest deep water at 2am in the morning. We were frantic to find out what happened to our own home.

The next day we got to our neighborhood and the streets were flooded almost waist deep for as far as the eye could see. My heart was in my throat as a neighbor loaned me a two seat kayak, and my good buddy Mike and I kayaked the 7 blocks to my house. The water was to the the top of my back stairs. I went to get in the back door, only to realize I left the house keys back at the car with my wife and son, so they could keep the heat on inside. It was so cold that day. (The photo you see here, taken by my friend Mike’s wife, Jenna Garvin, is us returning dejectedly to get the keys.)

We kayaked all the way back to get the keys, but before we could go back a second time to the house, we were asked to help bring medics in a row boat to a house several blocks away to get someone who was in medical duress. Now this was the second time I was rowing for quite a few blocks. The wind was still howling, the air was cold, the water getting into the boat was brutally cold. By the time I got back to our car the second time, I was exhausted. We went home, not to return until the next day, when the water had receded more.

Sure enough, our house was flooded, just as hundreds of our neighbors homes were, and we were all in a state of shock. Some neighbors just stood on their lawns, breaking into tears. It was such a helpless feeling.

The weeks that followed included people throwing out their entire life’s belongings to the curbs. There were just mountains and mountains of furniture and flooring and sheetrock for blocks and blocks in Silverton. Halloween was canceled in Toms River. A winter storm came a week later, to add insult to an already very wounded shore population trying to pick up the pieces. There had to be checkpoints set up by police, asking for ID to get into my own neighborhood to get to my house, because of looters. People were actually coming by boat to loot people’s houses. My next door neighbor’s son had to chase one away, who he saw breaking into one of our other neighbor’s homes. And of course, the countless people from out of town who would drive by and just gawk at the damage and take pictures, then return to their own homes.

It was an incredibly exhausting, nerve-wracking time, where we all often felt helpless. So many of my neighbors could not even start rebuilding until they got money from their insurance companies, and that process alone took months, even years for some.

And that’s when some friends from my church told me about a new organization that had just started, which they were volunteering for. It was called Jersey Shore United, and they suggested that maybe they could help some of my neighbors. I contacted them, and Barry Moll was the most compassionate, cheerful, encouraging man you could ever meet. He and I talked, and he decided that JSU would kick off their very first Night of Hope in Silverton. They came to my house, and set up tables in my driveway, and I invited a bunch of my neighbors. Many came, and learned how JSU could help. But it was so much more. Many shared their personal struggles, and their discouragement at all that had to be done, and Barry and the volunteers would take them aside, and jut pray for them, tears flowing. It was truly a Night of “Hope.”

JSU indeed helped many families in my neighborhood and beyond since then, and are growing to even reaching out to help Texas and Puerto Rico today. There is more work to be done, sadly, for too many at the shore, but Jersey Shore United vows to not stop helping.

~ POTJS is doing a 4-part series on Jersey Shore United this week. There are still hundreds of families without homes at the shore. To find out how you can help, or to find more information about the exciting Day of Hope at the Great Auditorium in Ocean Grove this Saturday (where I also happen to be speaking), please click here: http://jerseyshoreunited.org/)

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