— By Helen O'Neill.
Ever since Tommy Cramer's home was destroyed more than a month ago, it has been hard to move forward.
Cramer and his wife, Irene, live in Lavallette, N.J. The island where the town sits only recently allowed residents full access.
While staying with his sister in Toms River, N.J., the Cramers looked and looked for a rental apartment. It has been incredibly difficult amid immense competition, but they knew it would bring a return to some type of normalcy. "If anything it's going to be a mental thing to help us move on," Tommy said as the search dragged on.
Adding to the sense of dislocation, the Cramers have been separated from their dog, Opus, who has been staying with friends.
"We used to do certain things like our walks in the morning, and he hasn't walked since it happened," Tommy said. "That's the big thing. Get him back to not waking up in a stranger's house."
He and his wife were able to clean out their house, which had five feet of water in it, a few weeks ago. They disinfected it, but didn't feel they were making significant progress because for weeks the town only allowed residents in on designated days. Tommy is disabled and can't lift more than 30 pounds; Irene helps with heavier lifting on weekends.
"Every week is better, but every week you end up with different problems," he said. "We do the best we can."
The feeling is all too familiar for the Cramers. Last year, they had to move out of their home for nine weeks after Hurricane Irene. They did learn some lessons: This time they are going to have professionals replace the sheetrock walls, and they will try to save money by putting in their own kitchen cabinets.
Last week the Cramers finally got the news they were waiting for: They found a furnished rental apartment in Bradley Beach, N.J.
"It's a relief. A lot of the pressure is taken off," said Cramer, noting that after six weeks of uncertainty, he and his wife feel they're finally moving forward. "We can breathe a bit now."
And soon Opus will be back home.
— By Katie Zezima.
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