When Beth Whitehead returned to her High Avenue home in Union Beach, the sight of the devastation made her cry.
Whitehead has lived in Union Beach for 41 years, on High Ave. for 13 years, but she had never seen experienced anything like it. The tide had pushed the Bay into the creek, and the creek had rushed her house. At one unthinkable moment during Hurricane Sandy, half the house had been submurged in nine feet of dirty, briny water.
"Nothing in salvagable," she said, standing outside a mountain of furniture that overwhelmed her yard. She had cleared the house of its contents. Inside the wooden floor was buckled and covered in a film of filth, a stench of mildew hung in the air. Her sister's house on Dock Street was totally demolished, she said. It is in the zone protected by National Guard troops, where non-residents are being prevented from traveling.
She said she wondered how much the world knew -- or cared about -- what happened in Union Beach.
"The sad part is, the people who are not affected by it are going on with their daily lives -- they don't know how much it is affecting us."
Her neighbor Ed Leverock, dressed in a muck-stained jumpsuit, said local people have been very nice, offering food and clothes. But, he said, looking around and the ruined house, a lifetime of belongings strewn in the water-logged yard, he didn't know what to tell them. "At this point, we don't even know what we need," he said.
His childrens' playset was found across the reedy marsh, some distance away. He said it had been hard on the kids, to see their home in such a state.
The Whitehead children's trampoline had jumped the neighbors fence. She showed a visitor the astonishing sight. Next to the painted Halloween pumpkins, a dozen pairs of sneakers and shoes were lined up, drying on the deck railing in the chilly sun.
"This morning all I wanted was a pair of dry, clean socks. That's it. Funny how you take the little things for granted," she said.