My life is changed forever. On Sunday, October 28, I had poured Captain Morgan rum and apple cider in a mug and walked up to the beach as stinging northeast 40-knot winds kicked up spitting ocean spray into my face. Locals truly love big storms, and Hurricane Sandy was predicted to hit us in Normandy Beach New Jersey square on the nose in 36 hours.
I stepped over the last sand dune and watched the waves already churning in punishing 10- to 14-foot Noreast surf; the waves already sucking out the sand dunes like a three-day Noreaster had passed through. This wasn’t going to be good. Air raid sirens pierced the howling winds and an eerie, silent feeling enveloped my soul, something didn’t feel right. I was prepared to ride out Sandy in my beach home, after all, I’d been through pummeling shore Noreasters and hurricanes before, and sat down to fix another drink, but something gnawing in my gut told me to leave.
It wasn’t the cops who instructed us to take a permanent marker and write our social security numbers on our forearms if we refused the mandatory evacuation order, nor was it the omnipresent death knell from Jim Cantore’s rambling voice on the Weather Channel. It was an inner instinct to leave, to save my life.
I’m not going to draw this out. I lost everything – in the next 36 hours, not only did my house get consumed by freeflowing natural gas fires fueled by 80-knot winds, but the Atlantic’s 36-hour war machine comprised of a raging fall full moon tide combined with a tsunami like 8-foot surge immediately joined the Atlantic Ocean with Silver Bay, obliterating and absolutely crushing my home along with wiping 80 other neighbor’s houses off the map. All my fishing rods, reels, tackle and gear, over 25,000 photographs, my hard drives and writings from my professional media career, and countless irreplaceable pieces of artwork collected over my entire adult life of travel, fishing and hunting, are gone.
Nobody could’ve predicted the carnage to fall this ferocious. Today marks 18 days since Sandy hit, and we have still not been allowed to access the island to attempt to dig through the devastation to locate any half burned photograph, a rosary, or even a part of a fishing reel. Its all gone. My stretch of beach has been considered Ground Zero for Sandy, where President Obama came to see for himself, and still, there is no closure. I write this homeless, bouncing between friends houses, and have nothing but two flannel shirts, shoes, jeans, two t-shirts, a camera, laptop, cell phone and pair of Grunden’s slicks. That’s all I own now.
But interestingly, even in all of this mind-numbing, zombie-like daze I’ve been stumbling around in, other thoughts invade my mind. It is, after all, November, and an epic fall run of striped bass has hit the Jersey Shore. Tomorrow, I’m making a few calls to some close friends, borrowing a rod and reel, and am going to enjoy the one thing Sandy didn’t take away and never can take away from me. My passion.
In the upcoming weeks, I will be covering Sandy’s impact on fishing in the Northeast. I’ll report on how this storm effected charter captains, boat ramp access, and shoreline structure. I’ll also hopefully find that even though the storm’s impact was devastating and widespread, the fishing will bounce back as strong as ever.