Mayor Pat Menna wants you to know he's still without power, too, lest you suspect he's using his political clout to direct Jersey Central Power and Light trucks to his Red Bank neighborhood.
Before a packed house at Pilgrim Baptist Church during its Sunday "restoration service," Menna, recovering from a cold he wouldn't exactly attribute to the lack of electricity in his home, told the church's congregants to wait just a little while longer for power to come back on. In line with the theme of the service, which had little to do with turning the lights back on but rather restoring communities impacted by Hurricane Sandy, Menna implored the crowd of worshippers to consider the larger picture.
"I ask that you be patient," he said. "I know it's been cold; I know it's been difficult for you, but we still have our health, we still have our families, we still have our friends."
Hurricane Sandy arrived on New Jersey's coast one week ago as one of the largest and perhaps most destructive storms the state has ever seen. The storm wiped out coastal towns and caused massive destruction and subsequent power outages as it carved its way through the state northbound. Though Red Bank suffered only minor flooding damage compared to other nearby municipalities, downed trees and wires have left large segments of the borough's population without power for the last week.
According to JCP&L's outage map, Red Bank has roughly 2,500 customers without power. Officials believe the number of residents impacted by the outages could be significantly higher.
Though the borough's downtown has seen its power return thanks to its proximity to Riverview Medical Center's grid - returning hospitals to power was an immediate priority - many Red Bank neighborhoods on both the east and west side are still without power. Informally, Pilgrim Baptist Rev. Terrance Porter asked the gathered crowd of about 200 to raise their hand if their power was still out. More than two thirds of the congregants raised their hands.
Still, Menna said the town's residents have handled this struggle as a real community. Residents have volunteered to assist the borough, or have made donations to help Sandy victims. There haven't been any violent crimes with the town darkened, he said, and, in general, the support being offered throughout the borough might just be enough to get residents through.
Menna has taken JCP&L to task for its slow response and lack of communication, though during Sunday's service he remained upbeat and positive, clutching a bottle of vitamin c presented jokingly as a get well gift by Porter. He made special mention of Red Bank Administrator Stanley Sickles and the borough's employees for the work they've done in the past week.
"Our public employees, our union employees are the best in the world," he said.