As a New Jersey resident, I have been staggered by the extent of the damage on the streets that I've walked and the beaches where I've taken my kids. My family lost property, and I know that other New Jerseyans have lost family and friends. I feel a desire to go and see the boardwalks and shore towns where I spent so much time growing up: Seaside Heights, Belmar, Point Pleasant. And as much as I want to go back now, I realize how painful it will be to see them in person. As the people who live there can surely attest, no photograph can truly convey the devastation and sense of loss that invades you upon seeing it with your own eyes.
I understand that the Jersey shore I knew, and that my children know, will not be the same when we return. But I also realize that even as I read the news about the damage to the Shore, and try to wrap my mind around images of a roller coaster sitting in the Atlantic, I must remember they represent only a small portion of what has been lost. The tourist attractions will be rebuilt and the lights will come back on—perhaps another television show will be filmed here again one summer. But this sliver of physical and financial ruin is being repeated far beyond the iconic shoreline.
Beyond the boardwalks, block after block and neighborhood after neighborhood have also been washed away. Homes have had their walls and roofs dislodged, splintered wood and wreckage has piled in the shoreline streets, signs have been pounded into the sand, and foundations have been scraped clean by winds that flicked memories and livelihoods away in the space of an evening.
While the boardwalks will be back, the hard-working people who call these shore towns home will find a difficult, and likely much longer, road ahead. Even for those of us who hold tightly to our memories of the shore, the only way to truly measure the losses inflicted by Sandy is to begin where the boardwalk ends.