Early this morning, I took a drive to Belmar beach which is about ten minutes away from my home. Ever since Sandy hit our shores, the area near Ocean Avenue has been under lockdown. Today was no exception.
When I arrived at the beach, there were a multitude of barriers that blocked every single pathway into ocean avenue. Some of them were just plain concrete barriers but a few bore artwork. One that caught my eye was the barrier on 16 th Ave that said “This unlikely story begins on a sea that was a blue dream.” I had never heard of the quote before, so when I got home, I did a quick Google search and discovered that it was written by F.Scott Fitzgerald in his book The Offshore Pirate.
For a long time, I stood there and pondered the meaning of the quote. None of the other barriers had words on them. They were mostly blue and one had a mermaid painted on. Yet, it was the barrier with the quote that I kept coming back to. What does it mean? After a long and thoughtful process, I came to my own conclusion. The unlikely story posed in the scenario is Belmar’s resurrection after Hurricane Sandy. The beach the way it used to be was the blue dream. The people of Belmar are working hard to make that dream a reality.
I parked my car and tried to get onto the beach and I succeeded, albeit briefly. There were mounds of sand and wood that fought for dominance over the once smooth shores of the beach. The boardwalk was fragmented; gaps, some the size of chasms, greeted me. Before I could continue my exploration however, the police ushered me off the boardwalk.
Undeterred, I drove around and observed the surrounding neighborhoods. Belmar natives were out in full force, sweeping the sand from their front lawns, touching up their gardens, performing masonry work and painting. During the entire time there, I never saw one government official aside from the police. It was simply the people of Belmar working to restore their homes.
The deeper I drove into the neighborhood, the worse the damage was. Several homes near a lake were propped up on wooden pegs. Windows were shattered in others and some homes were completely in shambles. No one was working in this section. In fact, I only saw two women jogging. No one else inhabited the houses or even tried to fix them. It was a post apocalyptic nightmare.
I exhausted every possible street in Belmar before driving to Spring Lake. Even though they share Ocean Avenue, there were no barricades blocking the Spring Lake boardwalk. In fact, it look like it hadn’t been touched at all. The mansions stood majestically over the little town of Belmar, like a King looking down upon his subjects. Driving through this affluent neighborhood highlighted Belmar’s destruction even more.
It hurts me so much that Belmar, my home beach, received the brunt of the storm. No government official was out there working. I kept wondering where all of that relief money went to? It certainly wasn’t in Belmar. People were doing everything they could to get their houses in shape. This whole experience made me resent the way FEMA is handling things. Belmar deserves just as much attention as any other shore town. Just because it is not as famous as Seaside doesn’t mean it should be ignored.
The only thing I would change about my approach to the field visit is finding another way to sneak on the beach. Other than that, I did my best to remain inconspicuous while still taking my notes.