It’s been a rough few weeks around the Jersey Shore, to say the least.
And like hundreds of other folks that I have talked to, I was lucky. Real lucky in fact, just lost power for few days. I have found that the overwhelming theme and conclusion of most conversations has been “but I’m lucky”.
Some folks, like me, were merely only inconvenienced without utility service. My my house was fine, my business was fine. Sometimes folks had a little more damage or loss, “I lost my car”, “I had some minor flooding”, “I had a tree come down” and still it was the same “but I’m lucky”.
Sometimes it was worse “we lost a lot, had foot of water”, “lost most of my business equipment” or even “the house is a total loss, it will have to be razed”, and still – STILL , they finish with “but I’m lucky”.
Yes, giving thanks this week while with our family and friends will have a new purpose for many at the shore and in our town. As folks have contemplated how lucky they truly are, most have also spent a lot of time thinking about the others that are less fortunate, who are not only suffering from great material losses but face the daunting task of trying to rebuild their homes, businesses and lives.
I too have spent a great deal of time thinking and reflecting on my home towns, and realizing how fortunate to have been raised “down the shore”. My wife grew up just outside Pittsburgh. We went to the boardwalk on our first date. I’m thankful that my son got to experience the Jersey Shore I grew up at – even if my grandson will not.
I’ve been thinking about all of my friends and family that have suffered losses or managed to dodge the disaster relatively unscathed. Thinking about all of the folks in our Little League and our schools and our neighbors near our baseball complex. The sincere appreciation we received for cooking and serving meals to those that needed it, it was humbling.
Very proud of our volunteers that gave selflessly of their time to help give others whatever little comfort we could. And proud too of our community that has reached out and helped take care of their neighbors or in some cases even strangers.
I'm thankful for our school systems that rallied to the cause, our two superintendents and staffs for working with our mayor and council and always not hesitating to say “YES, whatever you need”. Our mayor and council, for fighting for our residents and communicating better with us, so much better than in many other towns. His sometimes controversial politics aside, I’m glad we had a “Jersey Shore guy” for our governor, one that knew the same boardwalks and beaches that we all do, and what they have meant to all of us.
And I have also been crying a lot. Very sad for those that have lost so much. It has been depressing to have to have to tell our customers that we can’t save their vehicles that were flooded. Yes, I know how badly you need your car, that’s why we helped keep it running all these years, it just cannot be saved, salt water and all. Sad because the Shore I knew and now realize how much I loved and appreciated will no longer be the same. That’s okay, but it is still sad.
As a Jersey guy, Springsteen’s music has always resonated. Now I feel drawn to his music and as I listen to the tales of the shore and his poetry that was cultivated here, it reaches a place that I did not know I had. That may sound quaint and melancholy, but true none the less.
I have been fortunate to travel around the country, often on business or for other meetings. I’m sure you are not surprised to learn that we have a reputation as being a tough crew. I’ve always explained that being squeezed between New York and Philly, you have to be tough.
I have always enjoyed the looks from folks when I told them I’m from Jersey. Sometimes I respond to the slight smirks with a rather rough “You gotta problem with that?!” followed by a stern look and short pause as they snap to attention, and then seeing their sense of relief when I chuckle at their sudden trepidation.
Well, our “Jersey Strong” toughness will help us get through this. We will demand, make that DEMAND, that we rebuild, bigger and better than ever. We are Jersey Strong and will Restore the Shore. However, we all have a very long, expensive, road ahead of us. But that is a conversation for another day.
Yes, Thanksgiving this year will be different. Alas, we have plans to visit my in laws in State College, PA. I’m sure I will listening to a lot more Springsteen and be doing a lot more reflecting during the four-hour car ride.
Ironically, on Friday we have plans to visit Johnstown and tour the area of the Great Flood, and swing by Shanksville, PA to see the memorial for Flight 93. As we pay our respect at the sites of past tragedy, at least the folks there will understand. My thoughts will not be far from my friends and family at the Shore. Take care of one another folks; take care and give thanks, because we are all ‘lucky’.