A Love Letter to the Jersey Shore

Will my daughter remember the boardwalk as her parents do?

We survived Hurricane Sandy. North Jersey was spared the rain, but we did not fare so well with the wind. It took five days for us to have our power restored, and now, a full week later, I know many people who are still waiting for the utility companies to flip that magic switch.

We lost a small downspout gutter to Sandy, who added insult to (minor) injury by tossing all of the leaves from the 100-foot oaks bordering our property up and over our house. They landed in our driveway, where they stayed thanks to the retaining walls.

Others were not so fortunate. Some of the towns that full-time Jersey Shore residents — along with part-timers and retirees who had finally realized their dreams of owning homes overlooking the Atlantic Ocean — called home barely exist, merely points on a map. An angry ocean pushed unimaginable amounts of water onto the land, overtaking the coastline I’ve come to know and love over the decades.

Seaside Heights’ Funtown pier in a watery grave in the Atlantic. Dozens of Mantoloking homes burned. Boats previously docked in the bayside marinas strewn on the bridges linking the barrier islands to the mainland — and crashed into houses, and in the middle of what were formerly streets, now sandy (Sandy!) and impassable.

Jersey guidos and guidettes lamenting the damage to Joey Harrison’s Surf Club. Homeowners left with nothing, not even mementos. Vacationers — even us “bennies” — feeling the pain, too.

Ortley Beach. Long Beach Island. Atlantic City. Sea Bright. Greetings, Asbury Park. Destruction, everywhere.

I wonder if, decades from now, my daughter’s memories of the Jersey Shore will be the same as mine. Will she remember Mommy and Daddy holding her on the little train ride on the Point Pleasant boardwalk? Will she have walked barefoot on the wooden boards, a rite of passage, daring them to pierce her little-girl skin with a splinter? She’ll likely never brave the oceanfront skyride at Seaside Heights, as Sandy laid waste to that, too.

It’s going to take a long time to rebuild. Afterward, it may not look like the Shore Points of our youth, the destination on the Turnpike and Parkway signs guiding us to our summer utopias. But it will still be our Jersey Shore. We’ll make it ours once again.

Jersey Strong.