Courtney Ravelo, the Buccaneer Editor-In-Chief, recently submitted the following as her eye-witness account of the wrath that befell her beloved town during Hurricane Sandy. We reprint her story below:
I have lived in Union Beach since I was five years old; I have spent my whole life there. My childhood was molded with this little town as my backdrop. Union Beach has gone through a lot of positive and welcomed changes since I first moved there. Memorial School got a killer addition. The iconic Scholer Park acquired a hockey rink, basketball court, and a skate park., Streets riddled with pot holes got
paved (Yes, it’s a big deal!), and so on. To experience all of these changes and then have them taken away in one night really took a toll on me and the
residents of this sweet little beach town we call our home.
Hurricane Sandy was a catastrophic storm, rumored to be the worst natural disaster to pass through Union Beach in over a century, besting the Nor’easter in 1992, which I still hear people talking about around town. I know they will be
talking about Sandy for years and years to come, as she essentially demolished
A couple of days before the storm hit, I would hear my friends talking about
evacuating their homes. I just sat there and thought, “Yeah that’s a really good idea (heavy on the sarcasm).” You see, the last time people evacuated and prepared for a storm it was Hurricane Irene and we barely got rain. So I thought it was silly for people to think anything of this storm. Boy, was I wrong!
On Sunday, October 28th, the impending storm was close but not here
yet. I went on my morning run, thinking it would just be a little windy. Well,
I was wrong again. I started my usual route to the beach, and was soon crying from the sand whipping my face and stinging my eyes. There were sand dunes set up all along the shore, about five feet high. I thought it was a wasted effort, which turned out to be correct. Those sand dunes did absolutely nothing to stop the destruction of our town from the ocean. I ran home as fast as I could, shivering, sweating and yes, a little nervous about what was to come. Never before had I seen such an ominous gray sky. I didn’t hear any birds chirping or singing. Nor did I see any animals out at all. But still, I held onto my pride and didn’t evacuate my house.
Sandy arrived Monday night. I sat in the dark (since the power went out) in my family room downstairs cuddled together on the couch with my two dogs, Tucker and Sugar, my best friend Erin, my abuela, my tio, and my mom and dad. We
periodically checked outside and were constantly looking for more flashlights
and candles. There just wasn’t enough lighters, enough matches, and enough
We heard the wind ripping through the trees dragging my garbage cans all over my backyard. At nine pm we checked outside and waited for the whole event to blow over (no pun intended). Well, were we in for a shock! Water somehow reach ed my street, although I live nowhere near a marsh and ten blocks down from the
beach. The water began rushing like a river; we saw a dead deer float down my
street in seconds- that’s how fast the water was rushing! I was astounded! We didn’t know what to think.
But we acted and started stuffing towels between the screen doors and the actual
doors around my house. We taped the doors, thinking that would somehow stop the water from ruining the house I have lived in for over a decade. We watched it
slowly but surely creep up my driveway, inching closer and closer to my family
room door. My parents were in full panic mode, while Erin and I were in utter
shock that this was really happening. We heard water hitting the floor down my
hallway, and we all rushed to see where it was coming from. The toilet and
shower drain were overflowing in my bathroom. It was clean, but we had to stuff
towels and weigh them down to get the water to stop. We were starting to give
up hope when after ten pm, the tide seemed to recede, as the water started emptying from my driveway. How lucky,! How grateful I was that my house would be okay!
That night, I slept with a flashlight on in my hand, traumatized by that feeling of
helplessness. I held it all night while water drowned my town. I was stressed
beyond belief and couldn’t fall asleep for hours.
The next morning, when Erin and I woke up, the storm was on its way out. We decided to take a look at what was left of all that we knew as Union Beach.
Trees were uprooted and strewn everywhere. They blocked roads, crushed houses. They appeared to be everywhere except in the ground. The initial disbelief faded quickly as we walked closer towards the beachfront. The road turned to a bed of mud, branches and seaweed. I started slipping and sliding in my boots and managed to maneuver my way to Scholer Park. There I stopped; mouth agape, looking at nothing-- just a pool with no remnants. Memories sprung from the back of my mind, forcing me to remember what I lost.
I left quickly and headed towards the beach again, curiosity winning out over
despair. Whole houses were missing. Other houses were still standing but completely flooded, and people walked around teary eyed. Suddenly my familiar, friendly town became a stranger to me. Everything looked like a misshapen puzzle, waiting to be put back in place. The scene was unrecognizable to what I saw on the same street just one day prior on my run.
I finally reached the beachfront, and it was no worse than what was expected. The sand dunes I had seen were gone with new rocks jutted from the sand which
seemed three feet lower than before. The steel fencing that once bordered the
beachfront was scattered everywhere. Random rods and poles stuck out here and
there, stone benches were thrown into the middle of the street. It wasn’t real.
It couldn’t be real.
There once was a statue of a dolphin by the gazebo at my beachfront that all of the little kids played upon. It was bright blue and rested on a blue tarp, resembling the ocean. I recall playing on it when I was a child. I heard it was now somewhere on third street. All that was left of a piece of my childhood was a gaping, dirty hole in the ground. It might not be a big deal to most people, but that dolphin was a signature of my town that has been there since as far back as I can remember, just like Scholer Park.
Jakeabob’s was our town’s most famous restaurant on the pier. What pier? The building was entirely demolished; not a scrap left. Memorials and statues of soldiers were lying on the ground, toppled over and broken into fragments.
Of course the power was out everywhere, and remained out for a week or more. I was lucky enough to get power back early Saturday morning, but there are people still living in the dark. Electricity might not be a priority, but it sure is helpful. The saddest thing for me though was thinking of my friends, my friends who are now homeless. When your home is taken away from you that is a depressing feeling like no other.
Early Wednesday morning, my uncle and abuela and I decided to take a walk to the beach and take pictures. We weren’t allowed to pass sixth street. President Obama was apparently flying over our town in a helicopter. The publicity was a little much so soon after this catastrophe. News 12 (the official news channel for New Jersey) was doing fly-bys in helicopters and driving around in cars with cameras, putting our one-square-mile town (that doesn’t even have its own zip code) on the map. Union Beach was said to be one of the most affected towns in New Jersey. Our next-door neighbor, Keansburg was also devastated. This storm was enough to handle and take in without helicopters constantly buzzing over our heads filming us.
Over the past few days we have all come together to really be there for each other. I have never seen this town’s people as warm and generous as they are right now. I wish Hurricane Sandy never happened, but something like that could not have been stopped. Food drives have been started and the National Guard even came in and put us under Marshall Law. Our current curfew is 7 pm, and if anyone is found out after that hour the police will catch you.
We are slowly but surely making a recovery, but it will be years before this town is back to normal. So many people have been left without one thing to call their own- a total lack of possessions, everything lost to the Atlantic Ocean. I wish Union Beach the very best. I will continue to help in whatever way that I can. This
is an experience that I will never forget. Hurricane Sandy made me view the
world in a different way; it could be so much worse. I took my beautiful town
for granted and now that it’s destroyed, I’ve realized that you really must be
grateful for everything.
I would also like to thank the RBR community who met at the Salvation Army in Red Bank to donate, collect and sort items for Union Beach! Everything was well
appreciated, and I don’t think this town will survive without outside help getting us back on our feet.