One year ago, Hurricane Sandy roiled through the Northeast. The remaining floodwaters lapped at the heels of a long-needed conversation about infrastructure, climate change and community survival. In the aftermath, we acknowledged that we can no longer pretend our First World status protects us from century storms.
Like many coastal regions, the area has lost a lot of its traditional waterfront uses to the allure of tourist income. The 20th-century evolution of seaside communities into resorts led to people wanting to live by the sea, instead of just visiting, said Rutgers Professor Emeritus John Gillis in the New Brunswick, N.J., Daily Targum.
“The shore has been completely altered,” he said. “Fishermen and the workers have disappeared. Now we have landlubbers on the shore that know the least about it. In other words, it’s what we call coastal amnesia — people who have no idea about the environment they are encountering and are always surprised about when things like Sandy come along.”
Though they are fewer and farther between, there are still fishing towns in New York and New Jersey. Some fishermen opted to ride out the storm in those harbors together but alone, each manning his own helm, tied to the same dock. They communicated via radio until the wind knocked out their antennas.
Like the aftermath of Katrina and the desolation that is Detroit, the voices of the survivors and the remembrances of those lost fades into the static of the 24-hour news cycle.
On this first anniversary of the storm, we have another chance to talk about what happened, how the recovery is coming and what we can do to prevent some of the catastrophic effects of another storm. Because there will be another one.
It took months for fishing docks to restore ice machines for their boats. A year later, 26,000 people are still out of their homes. Neighborhoods are still littered with debris. The people are resilient, but we can no longer rely on our internal or collective strength to survive these events and say we didn’t see them coming. We have to plan and prepare. Today we look back, but we must keep moving forward.
Photo: Derelict vessels litter the shore of Great Kills Harbor, N.Y., in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Nov. 3, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Stephen Lehmann.