The first Beach Haven West home this reporter stopped at was my own and my heart sank. There had been at least three feet of water inside, furniture had apparently floated throughout, my refrigerator laid on its side in the middle of the kitchen and my desk was half way across my office.
I didn't fair as well as some or as bad as others. And like many of them, I'll rebuild, only higher, better and smarter.
Eric and Sharyn Sloans from Little Falls could not even find their fridge as it floated away from their Mill Creek Road vacation home, along with most of their furniture in Sandy's surge. "That's our shed," said Sharyn pointing across the street to a neighbor's yard.
Meanwhile, Eric surveyed the nearly totally-gutted interior. The rear wall was gone - opening a full view to the marsh and Atlantic City skyline in the distance. Most of the sheetrock had disappeared leaving just the framing. "I'm sick to my stomach," he said.
That was the feeling many who took the shuttle buses in to survey their properties had upon seeing their homes for the first time. But as they gathered to head back out, you could sense the camaraderie and even a few chuckles as they swapped stories with their neighbors and now fellow refugees.
Surprising was some of the items people selected to carry out with them on the shuttles or trudge back to their cars. Not just clothing, personal papers and electronics, but men with golf clubs and fishing poles. One woman carried only an ornate lamp. She said there was "no way" she was leaving without it.
Stafford Township ran shuttle buses in from select points for residents to get in, recover what they could carry and get out. The shuttle concept was used for residents’ safety because there was still debris strewn in the roadways and possible wires in the road. There were also boats and personal watercraft everywhere most not anywhere near where they had been originally been.
Turned on their sides, laying in yards far from their owners, or crashed through garages and some had been moved out of the street by bucket loaders. They resembled a nautical version of the old game of Pick-Up-Sticks.
Over on the bayfront at Jennifer Lane, the Coyne family was piling up the contents of their first floor at the curb. Dozens of large trash bags, deck furniture, exercise equipment all were going out.
They also lost their two cars as Mike Coyne said by the time his wife and daughter went to leave it was too late to get out. "Then water came in and was to the ceiling of my ground level," he said.
"When Sandy came in, I saw it come right at me," he said pointing to the southeast.
His neighbor didn't fair any better and two streets down on Muriel both southern bayfronts bore the scars on a full on assault of wind and wave.
What were his plans now? Fix it up and stay. "This is Shangri La,” he said.
What about the plans for the Sloans and me? We will rebuild as well. Only this time, we are both planning on going up. No more nice little rancher on a ground level slab.