Connections: Belmar Beach Memories

All we need do to grasp how lucky we are is to look UpIsland

   Halloween will be celebrated on Saturday in Belmar, N.J. I suppose the Belmar kids will have a good time, regardless — better late than never, when it comes to kids and their candy. But it’s hard to imagine the grownups really putting their hearts into caramel apples or ghost lollipops, after all the losses suffered there.
   Hurricane Sandy hit some people hard here on the East End, too, and it damaged a number of properties severely, but all we need do to grasp how lucky we are is to look UpIsland. I’ve never been to Long Beach or Breezy Point, but these Long Island communities are frightening examples of just how terrible a storm can be. We have been expecting the Big One for decades — The Star has never stopped beating the drum about hurricane preparedness — and it finally arrived, only this time the South Fork did not bear the brunt. There but for the grace of God. . .
   My family spent some time in the beach-and-boardwalk town of Belmar, during a couple of summers when I was small. Newark, also slammed, is across the river from Bayonne, my hometown. Staten Island, which is across the Kill van Kull from Bayonne, is where my high school friends and I used to hike. Bayonne, a backwater of sorts, was still in an official state of emergency six days after Sandy, and, in the Silver Lake section of Belmar, the streets were still flooded.
    By the time you read this, most of these coastal communities will have started receiving contributions of food and clothing, and those who lost their homes will, for the most part, have at least a temporary roof of some sort over their head. Meanwhile, volunteers have pitched in to clean up debris, to check on the elderly and otherwise vulnerable, to pump out water from basements. Social media is fueling this new kind of disaster relief: the self-organized, spontaneous coming together of strangers.
    (Those of us who want to help from afar have been sending cash. It is easy, these days, to donate. You can even send money by text. Among the familiar working with the displaced are: Habitat for Humanity, the Red Cross, United Way, Catholic Charities, and the Jewish Federations of North America. Others, closer to the ground, are the Community Food Bank of New Jersey and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City.)
    No one knew on Tuesday what effect the ravages of the storm would have on the election, but early reports were that voting was heavy along the Jersey Shore and in other metropolitan areas where the damage was extreme, and where temporary polling places had been established amid confusion.
    CBS News reported that the first voter to arrive at a polling place in Little Ferry, N.J., got there 13 minutes before the polls opened. The storm had claimed his apartment and car, even though Little Ferry is not on the shore, but when asked why he was there so early, he said, “It’s important because it’s our day. No matter what happens — hurricanes, tornados — it’s our day to vote.”