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Thanks, Jersey, for the memories

Posted By Barbara Simpson On 11/18/2012 @ 2:10 pm In Commentary,Opinion | No Comments

The pictures are almost beyond comprehension, although it’s not impossible to comprehend that a storm could do such damage to the handiwork of humans.

The East Coast of the United States has been ravaged by the storm called Sandy.

Truth be known, it’s too soft a name for a weather event that caused such devastation, especially since the damage was catastrophic to some of the most beautiful beaches and sand dunes in the country.

Under the circumstances, I suspect that the people directly affected by the storm have had their fill of sand – consider some of the pictures showing sand dunes in people’s living rooms.

There will ultimately be a cleanup and a rebuilding of sorts – whatever the environmentalists will allow – but the truth is, things will never be the same. The people, their lives, their possessions, the land, the ocean and the states will be permanently changed, and not necessarily for the better.

The damage estimates are reaching the many billions from Florida to Maine, but New Jersey and New York were particularly hard hit. The storm came ashore at Atlantic City and moved north and inland, flooding and wrecking just about everything in its path.

The damage in New Jersey hits close to home for me, even though I’ve lived in California for decades.

I’m a native New Yorker, born in the City but moved to Jersey when I was three and lived there until I graduated from college. Most of our family, on both sides, lived in the state although a few moved out over the years.

Many relatives are still there; thank goodness, they weathered the storm with no injuries but there was property damage. My many friends are in difficult situations digging their homes, businesses and lives out of the debris.

For me, it was more than a terrible storm that tore apart lives and possessions; for me, it was a storm that destroyed the places that formed my life.

When they say, you can’t go home again, they’re right. I did make the memory trip home a couple of times recently and while there were places I remembered, much had changed.

But now, with the destruction caused by Sandy, many of the places that were part of my life and memories are simply gone.

I checked the Internet for the town on Raritan Bay, where I lived for two years when I started school and where my grandmother lived for 12 years.

I stayed with her almost every summer and even had my sweet 16 beach party there!

I wanted to see what happened to the boardwalk – that wonderful place we walked to almost every summer night for pizza and soft ice cream and the wonderful games and rides.

It was all gone.

The beautiful old carousel I rode every year of my childhood was totally smashed.

The bumper cars – my favorite ride – were tossed all over town. Some were found 14 blocks away from the boardwalk.

The penny arcade, the pull-a-string game, the game wheels, the Ferris wheel, the whip, ski-ball, even the swimming pool next to the beach and, of course, the boardwalk, gone.

It’s all gone.

A few years ago, I took my children there on a nostalgia trip to see what I did as a child –

I’m so glad I did, because now it exists only in our memories.

I also took them to Point Pleasant and Seaside Heights and other ocean beach towns to show them where I spent so many happy hours. We went to “the shore” to get tan and tossed around by the waves and to socialize. The cotton candy smelled the same as did the pizza and hot dogs and the apple pie, and yes, even the draft beer.

I showed them the rock jetty I loved to walk on before storms when the Atlantic turned steel grey and was covered with white caps.

It was also the place their mom experienced her first kiss on a moonlit night, serenaded by the sound of waves breaking.

That jetty was washed away.

They’ll rebuild it, but it won’t be the same.

When I was in high school, the mantra of my crowd when we were asked what we wanted to do after graduation was: “go to California.”

We were so anxious to go somewhere “exciting” – and Jersey wasn’t it.

California had the mystique – the golden utopia, the land of sun and surf and sand and freedom.

Judging by the last reunion I attended, only two of us made it. Now that the years have passed, I realize that while I have no regrets about California, those Jersey years were pretty special.

Yes, I know, times were different and while, like teenagers everywhere, we griped about everything, we were really blessed to have the land, the air, the ocean, the beaches, the entertainment and now, the memories, which no storm can erase. In fact, the storm has made those memories all the more vivid.

But it’s hard to accept that such a chunk of my life has been wiped off the face of the earth.

Yet, the waves still roll in, the wind still blows and the dunes will re-form.

What humans do to it all remains to be seen, but it won’t be the same.

Then again, nothing is.

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