Down on the Boardwalk, New Jersey Rebuilds One Year After Sandy

First a superstorm, then a fire, but the human spirit remains unbowed.

The sun rises in behind the Jet Star Roller Coaster on Feb. 25, 2013, in Seaside Heights, N.J., where part of the Casino Pier was destroyed after Hurricane Sandy.
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Edward has now lived through two disasters in less than a year. He says the fire was bad, but Sandy was like nothing he'd ever seen.

"We were sitting out here with my neighbors. Before Sandy came, the sky turned purple," he says. "You see that house across the street? The sky got dark and all the sudden the bricks came flying off it like it was paper. It was just ripped apart."

Edward stayed to protect his home from looters. The National Guard suggested he leave, even "walking around with guns, kicking people's doors in," but he wouldn't.

After the hurricane hit, he was sitting outside with a flashlight—power to the city had long been out—when a man came stumbling down the street, carrying valuables, his face bleeding. He'd been hit by a brick.

"It was like he was in that show The Walking Dead. He was all cut up," Jones says. "I was sitting right here with my machete in my hand. I yelled out 'Hey!,' and he shot off into the darkness. People were robbing everything man."

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The family had to relocate for four months following the storm. The humans in the family weren't the only ones to have a survivalist attitude.

"I have a big fish tank upstairs and we had two little goldfish in it. The National Guard let us come back to check on our house in the middle of the winter. The power had been out for months. The fish tank was completely frozen, with the goldfish just sitting there at the bottom," he says. "When we finally moved back in, the electricity came back on, and we saw the fish swimming around in the tank. We were gone four months. Somehow, they just survived the whole winter."

Bouncing Back on the Boardwalk

Just like Christie said they would, many of the businesses have survived, and lots of tourists have come back. But things still aren't back to normal.

Gato, of Van Holten's Chocolate, says the store lost at least half of its business this summer. Many shops were able to reopen by Memorial Day, but some weren't. His candy store operated with reduced inventory. Lots of shop owners were back within days of the storm, trying to salvage what they could.

Others weren't.

"A couple buildings were just destroyed and washed away. For us, there was just this charge to get this store back open and to get going. To just get this monkey off our backs," he says. "Others, they ran for the hills. They just left."

Gato says that the boardwalk is slowly regaining its character. The amusement park's owners are putting in new rides and are looking for a new roller coaster.

"We're holding out. The end of the summer wasn't too bad once the amusement park got some of the rides open and stuff," he says. "They're looking for a new roller coaster because that was the iconic view of the whole boardwalk. Whatever we get back is going to be something to stick a flag on."

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