Rich's Blog: Jersey Strong

Where are you from?

It used to be an easy answer. I would say the Jersey Shore. Then Snookie, Pauly D and the Jersey Shore TV show came to MTV suddenly my answer requires a much longer explanation. The Jersey Shore is nothing like the fist pumping and debauchery on display from MTV's reality stars (none of whom are from the area by the way).

The real Jersey Shore is a vibrant area that is a mixture of small beach towns mixed in with surrounding communities that all seemed to blend in with each other. The real Jersey Shore is a vibrant music scene. It seems as if every bar along the Shore would start a rumor that Bruce Springsteen was showing up to play a midnight set. The fact that the Boss would actually do this at a long list of Shore staples was always fuel for the fire.

Returning home after the destruction of Sandy, I knew that the devastation would be tough to see. The fact of the matter is that I saw a mere sliver of what the storm did. Access was very limited. I knew a dozen ways to navigate through the different beach communities, but nearly every one of them had police presence, keeping onlookers away. Outside of the area, in the eyes of the nation, I don't know if people realize the amount of mileage the storm damage covers. It's not just one city, but an entire coastline that was heavily populated.

There were three levels of damage. There was a mind boggling amount of trees littering streets and people's properties. My parent's house had a good dozen trees down and fortunately, none of them came close to the structure of the house. It's going to be a long time before you see a street without branches and wood outside the front yard.

The second level was the power outages. My parents didn't have power for 14 days. I arrived the day before their power was fully restored. Bundling up wih blankets and no heat for one night was taxing, but it was the tiniest blip to what everyone was going through. Getting a chance to see the Grand Srand workers of Santee Cooper was a highlight. They were working about 30 minutes south of my folks house and were happy to see a familiar face. Scott Shoemaker and his 29 person crew were working 16 hour days, but you could never tell it. Every single Santee Cooper worker had a great attitude and were showing off their skills. Watching them navigate around a giant tree and get the power on for a single Mom and her two children showed them at their best. The fact that the family wasn't home and would never be able to thank the Santee Cooper boys in person just shows you how selfless every power worker is during the storm. An Alabama power crew got my parents power turned on. My Dad tried to give the workers some money hoping he could buy a round of drinks on him when they returned south, but they steadfastly refused. I wish I returned home a week earlier and could have rounded up the Santee Cooper guys to get the power back on for every friend and family member that I knew. They would have done it, too.

Click Here to watch Santee Cooper helping in New Jersey

The third level was the people who lost everything. My wife's college roommate, Kristen Casella, lives in Ortley Beach, which is considered the Ground Zero of Sandy. With sinkholes and gas lines compromised, the best case scenario to return to her home with her husband and four children to return back home is six months and that's if the structure isn't damaged. The family had the clothes on their back and anything they could put in the family van. Their lives are completely upside down, but Kristen's attitude is inspirational.

Click Here to watch Kristen and family waiting to return home

She was in a mandatory evacuation zone and wisely left her home. Her sister was in a voluntary evacuation zone in the Silverton section of Toms River, New Jersey. Living there since 1968, there was never flooding at her house through all the storms. Suzanne Aurnhammer was trapped in the attic with her family, fearing for their lives.

Click Here to watch Silverton damage

Ed Piotrowski told me what was coming with Sandy and to make sure my family was ready. My Dad listened and evacuated. Other family members ignored the mandatory evacuation. I can tell you that they were playing Russian Roulette. So often the media overhypes events hoping for the worst and simply moving on in the endless 24 hour news cycle. The Grand Strand is fortunate to have a voice of reason in Ed, who will tell you exactly how it is. I encourage everyone who lives in Myrtle Beach to use this resource during Hurricane season and listen to what Ed says. I now look forward to busting his chops for the rest of the year instead of heaping praise on him, but I am grateful for him looking out for my family.

As I was driving out of town to return to Myrtle Beach, I saw a bed sheet on a house that had "JCP&L WTF?" in spray paint. The homeowners are clearly running out of patience for Jersey Central Power and Light to get the power turned back on. So Jersey. There were also a lot of cars with the bumper sticker "Jersey Strong". Jersey Strong is a mentality. They don't want a pity party, and they know everything will be ok. Kristen Casella is Jersey Strong. The human spirit is alive and well. There are different kind of "Strongs". The Santee Cooper crew showed "Carolina Strong". A 100 year old tree covering an entire front yard is no big deal and sleeping in a tractor trailer for 11 days doesn't take away Southern hospitality.

If there's one positive I can take from Sandy it's that humanity is on full display in the midst of a disaster. There were endless volunteers using social media to help in whatever way they can and enough clothes, hot meals and genuine concern to restore faith that the world is not entirely self serving and selfish.

The Carolina Strong in me says - Thank y'all for helping us back home through the telethon and numerous groups gathering clothes and supplies to bring to New York and New Jersey.

The Jersey Strong in me says - Sandy, WTF? We'll be ok.

WPDE Sports Director Rich Chrampanis was born in Staten Island, New York and grew up in Monmouh Couny, New Jersey. He's excited to return to the trivial world of sports on WPDE.