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As with so many people, much of my mental capacity this week has been given to Hurricane Sandy. And, as we see the aftermath unfold, I am thankful that all of our East Coast loved ones are safe, albeit a little worse for wear given some water leaks, lack of power, lack of connectivity.

This storm presented a new situation for us – instead of riding it out with our friends and family, we watched from afar. Very far, actually. 3000 miles away. I was so worried on Monday and Tuesday. I was constantly checking in with folks back home – and even kept my parents (who seem to lose power if the dog sneezes too hard in a rain storm) on the phone for a good hour late Monday afternoon when they probably had better things to do…like prepare. In my head, I told myself I wanted to keep them occupied and not worried, but in my heart, my intent was more selfish because I wasn’t sure when I’d get to speak to them again and I didn’t really like that. I guess it was selfishly well-intentioned? Sounds like an oxymoron – but. really, it was out of love vs. anything else. Luckily, they never lost power and we’ve been in contact every day since. 🙂

It’s strange to be so far away from your “core” of friends and family during a situation like this. You feel kind of helpless and horrifically voyeuristic – like you’re watching destruction unfold on TV and you know folks you love are going through it live – in real life – and you have no idea how they are faring. They were all OK. Thank goodness.

Stranger still were the days following when evacuated friends from New Jersey were without power and connectivity and had no way of checking on their town and the town where they owned a summer property. Being in Oregon, the only way I could help was sharing information since I had  access to what they were longing for. I spent Tuesday night looking for information and photos from their towns and taking pictures of my computer screen and texting them. They were thankful to have any information “from the outside world” because all they had was the safety of the home to which they’d evacuated – powerless and disconnected from today’s social-media-rich world where information is constant and real time. (As a side note, I have to say that I am amazed at the way social media helps people stay connected and share information in times of crisis. Watching a virtual community rise up to support one another – even with just small bits of information, or a photo of a shore house to confirm it was safe – is oddly powerful stuff. It can instantly calm a worried soul. Over the past few days, I have seen many, many examples where the simple act of strangers passing along a nugget of info about a particular street / intersection has given folks peace of mind – even when the news was bad.)

However, for me – and I imagine for many of our friends and family back East – the most gut-wrenching thing has been poring over photos of so many New Jersey shore towns that were socked by Sandy. Growing up in Philadelphia, my family and I spent a good amount of our summer vacations “down the shore”, and it’s simply sad to see familiar haunts covered in water…sand…debris. I was crushed to see so many places that bring about such nostalgia standing in stark contrast to how they are embedded in my mind’s happy memories.

When I was young, my grandparents owned a summer home in Ocean Gate, NJ. It’s a tiny, tiny idyllic coastal town – about 1/2 mile wide by 1/2 mile long – nestled across Barnegat Bay from Seaside Heights.  We had family in Lavalette, family in Barnegat, and family friends who owned a place in Surf City, Long Beach Island. Every summer, we’d spend about two weeks (and some weekends) at this home and our ‘special treat’ would be a night on the Seaside boardwalk (pre-“Jersey Shore”!!!) or a day with our cousins in Lavalette or a day at the ocean with friends in Surf City. When I grew older, I still spent time in these shore towns, but also started spending more time at the southern Jersey Shore spots that Philadelphians traditionally frequent – for me, that was mostly Sea Isle and Wildwood. And after Kenny and I began our own family, we’d hit the Ocean City boardwalk with the kids one Saturday every September after the summer rush had died down.

Like so many of you, seeing pictures and coverage of these places is heartbreaking. I know recovery will happen and things will be rebuilt and many generations to come will get to have the fantastic New Jersey Shore experiences we all did. But this week, I mourn what the ocean has taken or damaged – what used to be, and how I remember these towns from my childhood.

Here I am in the late 70s / early 80s enjoying some rides on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights. (Likely in homemade duds courtesy of my mom…the talented seamstress.)

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We’re sending our best wishes to the North East Coast for a speedy return to life as they knew it.