I walked down the streets of Keansburg last week and saw what used to be my hometown looking like a ghost town. A small 1 mile town on the Jersey Shore that was ravaged by the superstorm Sandy. I couldn’t help but rehash the events that night when my family and I decided not to evacuate and stayed through the storm.
As I stepped out my door to look down towards the beach dunes and make sure all seemed well I felt the wind pounding against my face. The time was 8:33, high tide was due at 8:30, the dunes seemed to be holding. I looked into my neighbor’s yard to check on our cars which we parked in their driveway do to their property being set on a small hill. Seeing that everything looked good I went inside to get a cup of coffee hoping we escaped disaster, unaware that the dune was just seconds away from breaking.
Going inside, I Informed my wife and four children that everything was looking ok, as I made myself a cup of coffee that was made by candle light with boiled water. The power had been out for the last 5 hours due to the high winds. When I sat down on the couch we all heard a loud thump coming from outside. When I opened the door to look outside I could hear the panic in my wife’s voice when she noticed the look of horror in my eyes. Outside was a raging river rushing down our street. When I looked to the left I soon learned what the thump was. The large tree in the front of our neighbor’s yard came crashing down onto our house. I ran outside trying to stay close to the house so as to not get swept from the rushing water. As I looked at the tree, noticing it pierced through the roof of our house, I can hear my wife screaming to me to come back in because the river of water was about to cover the sidewalk. I was able to get back into the house before the rushing water blocked me from the front door.
Inside the house my children had begun to panic. I could see them huddled together in the dining room crying and panicking as if they thought they were going to die. After I was able to comfort them enough to calm down I went back to the front door to check on the water level, just to learn that the first two of our three steps were already under water, and it was rising quickly. My first instinct was to go into my bedroom in the middle of the house and clear off the bed and the dressers, so I could get the children and anything I had time for off the floor. By the time I got them all in there and onto the bed we could all hear the sound of water in the house. I came out of the bedroom and noticed water coming from our bathroom. I went to look and saw that water was somehow coming through where the walls and floor met. I then went out towards the living room and saw that the water was rushing in from under the front door.
Fearing the bed might not be high enough, I rushed to my daughter’s room where there is access to the attic and cleared a way to get up to it. If needed I could get them up there and out to the roof, praying that it would slow down and not come to that. As I finished clearing a path I could hear my wife screaming she smelled gas. I ran through what was about a foot of water to the back of the house where our hot water heater was. Realizing that was where the source of the gas was I was able to cut off the gas leading to it, hoping that would stop the leak. Then I started opening all the windows to try and get the gas to air out, remembering that our source of light was from lit candles. This only made the children start to panic even more because they could now hear very clearly the sounds of the wind, rushing water, car alarms being set off and the distant sounds of sirens more clearly. My wife tried to call 911 on her cell phone, but to no avail because we had lost cell service an hour earlier. We later found out that at that time 911 had gone completely down in the entire area.
After about 10 more minutes I was feeling a great sigh of relief when I noticed the rising of the water was considerably slowing down. Thankful that the idea of having to bring the children up to the attic was looking more and more that it would be unnecessary. I went into the bedroom to calm the children down and inform them that it looked as if the worse was finally over noticing my daughter had vomited from her fear. I was able to see out the window of the bedroom and noticed my wife’s car had floated from the neighbors driveway into their yard, while my car was about 90 percent under water. Another 10 minutes had passed and the water had stopped rising. It took about an hour of sitting on the bed with the children to calm them enough that they were able to fall asleep, and I was able to sit back looking at them in relief that we had survived without any personal injury.
It took only 45 minutes for Hurricane Sandy to wash out and destroy what took 18 years for us to build. Our home, cars and almost all of our personal belongings were gone. But through God’s grace, and a neighbors boat, we were able to get out alive and well. Now we just focus on rebuilding our lives and trying to move forward, thanking all those who have given all they can to help us along the way.