Clouds from the Past: My Reflections on Sandy, Gloria and the Jersey Shore

The effects of Hurricane Gloria Hurricane Sandy

Many meteorologists say the last time we saw destruction on this scale, it was wrought by Hurricane Gloria in 1985 (Photo from  Wikipedia)

I feel confident in saying I grew up on the Jersey Shore. I don’t mean that in the way that many would nor do I mean to offend proper Jerseyans. Anyone who has read this blog much at all knows that I am a de facto Pennsylvanian.

But most and the best of my summer childhood memories are rooted firmly in that area of America. I was born in Northern New Jersey and spent my childhood there. My mother used to take us down to the shore for a couple weeks every summer, leaving my father alone with his annual fortnight of peace to do the tax returns. So we’d stay with my grandmother in an affluent (I perceived it as affluent then and still do) little town called Normandy Beach with a sweet little bay not more than two minutes away and a vast expanse of beach just three or four blocks in the opposite direction from the bay. I learned to associate the salty smell of the sea air as we passed The Amboys on the Parkway with the anticipation of long sunny days spent lazily frolicking through waves, collecting shells, and cautiously avoiding jellyfish (I went through some very cautious phases).

Sucking the marrow from life doesn’t quite capture it for me and The Shore. I learned to swim with and against the waves there. I came home with my belly raw-red from the friction of awkwardly attempting to ride my cousin’s boogie-board as long as my skinny little body could manage with teeth chattering and skin pruny by the end of the day. I learned how to play Spite and Malice with my grandmother and heard many tales of the Irish side of the family at her house down the shore. I played skee ball in Point Pleasant and Lavallete, stayed up nights with bloodshot eyes watching my cousins play family reunion Monopoly and spent mornings eating bagels and reading discarded sections of The Asbury Park Press. I envied extended family that lived on the coast for their regular proximity to a place that, to my imagination, seemed to embody paradise.

Point Pleasant Beach before Hurricane Sandy

Point Pleasant Beach in happier times (Photo taken from

So it is great horror and no adequate articulation that I have watched events unfold over the last week.

As a seven year old child, I lived through Hurricane Gloria. My memories of that storm, destructive though it was, are tinged with a sort of romantic nostalgia. Our power went out, we gathered candles, we sat on our lawns with our neighbors and other neighborhood kids, we played cards and we had power restored soon after. It felt like an adventure with no tangible sense of impending danger. Of course, time plays with memory and you imagine that nature can do damage when it wants to, but — and this goes without saying — nothing prepares you for the destructive force of nature when it hits hard close to home.

Manasquan after Hurricane Sandy

Manasquan after Hurricane Sandy (taken from Manasquan’s facebook page)

Much intelligent thought has been published about the aftermath and the lessons of Sandy. Scott Erb’s Blog does a good job of summarizing what way forward for the elections and the flawlessly non-partisan job that Governor Christie has done in the wake of the disaster. Naomi Klein has posted several articles, as you might expect, that are well worth a read about disaster/venture capitalists vampirically profiting from all of this.

And I’m tempted to ponder platitudinously and quote from Melville and Jack London about the awesome power of nature and our infinitesimally small position standing against it. I certainly think discussion, not silence, is the best way forward.

But here and now, when things are raw, when my cousins have been without power for a week and my parents are cooking with a propane tank and a Coleman portable grill even high up in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, I mourn. My heart goes out to those suffering and I mourn for that place of childhood sunshine and wish it a good and steady recovery in the coming months.

All the best, Jersey. I am thinking of you.

Hurricane Sandy aftermath

To quote Gov. Christie, “Unfathomable”. (Photo taken from the Asbury Park Press website)

Under Any Other Business (for now)…

Even in times of crisis, and maybe especially, working for good causes is of great importance. I raised over £200  for Movember last year, all of which went on research and awareness of men’s health issues, especially prostate and testicular cancer. I hope to more than double last year’s result by the end of the month. In order to do that, I need your help. Please take a couple minutes to donate to a fantastic cause. Even the smallest donation can make the biggest difference and it doesn’t take much time or money to make that difference. Follow the link below to give to my Movember page.

Pete Lawler’s Movember Page

And follow the progress of my facial hair growth through Movember here. I’ll take requests if it helps you to donate!


11 responses

  1. Snoring Dog Studio | Reply

    I’m finding it difficult to not break down and cry over the devastation caused by this storm. So many lives have been wrecked and damaged. I pray that help will come swiftly and that people will rebuild their lives. My grandma (when she was living) had a home in Margate City just a few blocks from the beach. I remember a multitude of lovely visits to her little cottage near the beach. My cousin owns it now but I haven’t heard how it fared. I almost don’t want to know. I have to hang onto those memories instead. I hope your family and friends recover quickly.

    1. I know. My cousin’s kids don’t even go back to school for another week and a half. Such is the damage caused by the storm. Absolutely horrifying. It’s a weird reverse sensation to the London riots (for which I was in Atlantic City. Crazy). There’s a remoteness about it and a feeling of helplessness and desolation. But we move on. There’s an almost perversely indomitable underdog spirit about New Jerseyans in particular that no doubt will help to get us through.

  2. Very evocative writing.

    1. Thank you. Always appreciated.

  3. Lovely post, Pete. I lived in Brooklyn for a few years, and I’m having this weird sort of long-distrance grief about the destruction, combined with worry about friends and family in the area. I’m also very troubled about the reports from Staten Island and the deaths and damage there (the media seems not to care much about that particular borough).

  4. It is strange the way from here especially, things can start to seem pretty skewed. I hope no area affected by the story is forgotten about in the coming months of reconstruction, recovery, and mourning, least of all Staten Island.

  5. […] for: Clouds from the Past: My Reflections on Sandy, Gloria and the Jersey Shore, in his personal blog: The American Londoner Posted on: 3 November 2012 Moving […]

    1. Thank you so much. I’m grateful and honoured and I was really moved by what you said about the post. Many thanks.

  6. Reblogged this on The American Londoner and commented:

    On a suggestion from my cousin Samm, who was in the middle of Sandy’s landfall when it happened, who was without power for weeks, whose sons missed school and days of school and ended up being some of the lucky ones given that some are still without homes, and who, perhaps most importantly of all did some fantastic work in setting up a non-profit called Backpacks for Brick, I’m reblogging this post from last year that I wrote as a sort of helpless feeling response to the utterly heartbreaking and destructive events I watched unfold by remote on my computer screen. It seems fitting given the imminent one year anniversary and the battening down of hatches we’ve been doing in the storm that swept over London and the Southeast last night. I hope it gives some pause for thought.

  7. I hope all is well in London. I saw the BBC news broadcast and heard of the devastation. Unwittingly, we were sitting at the Gatwick Airport waiting to fly out just before the storm hit. It is always sad and heartbreaking to see a place you know personally get hit hard by nature’s destructive capability. It is like a friend or family member having an accident or illness. You want to reach out, but you feel powerless to do so.

    1. We seem to have been hit hard. I say seem. Aside from evidence of it having rained, Hackney seemed largely unaffected. So we were among the lucky ones. West London seems to have been hit harder. I know what you mean. It was like that a bit when I was ironically in Atlantic City when the riots of 2011 happened. Saw my own flat in the background as rioters and police fought on TV. Weird. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

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