A Sad But Sweet Homecoming

Red Cross volunteer talking with womanPam Magee speaking with Disaster Services Mental Health Worker, Elizabeth Kampf outside her Jersey Shore home. 

Today, for many residents of Seaside Heights, Ortley Beach, and Lavallette, New Jersey was the first day they were able to return to their homes after Superstorm Sandy devastated the shore, demolishing boardwalks, flooding homes, and causing millions in damage.

Pat Magee, a resident of Ortley Beach was first allowed into her home today after evacuating to her daughter’s home on Sunday, October 28th, 2012. She has been in suspense for the past 17 days as she waited to return home to witness the damage to her two-story home, and also to see if the one thing she had forgotten to take with her had weathered the storm.

Pat married her husband Kent in 1967, and together they raised three beautiful children and created a life together in their Ortley Beach home. After 37 years of marriage Kent passed away and Pat was left alone in her New Jersey home. Days before Superstorm Sandy hit, Pat packed up her essentials and evacuated the island. In her frantic state, Pat forgot to take a personal item that meant more than words could express, her wedding photo, which hung on the wall along the staircase.

Upon opening the door, the air was heavy and filled with the smell of mildew and resembled nothing of the home she left behind. Pam was relieved to see that her and Kent’s wedding photo remained safely hung on the wall where she remembered it. The rest of her personal belongings didn’t fair so well. Her couches were completely moved across the house, her refrigerator was upside down, and the rest of her furniture was water-soaked and disheveled. The waterline inside her home was marked at four feet, nine inches, just three inches below her wedding photo. Pam believes her husband was watching over the photo and her home, as no serious structural damaged occurred.

Pam is only one of many New Jersey residents who are now allowed to re-enter their home, however power and gas has still not been restored. Residents are only able to visit daily for a limited amount of time to collect items, assess damage, and begin the recovery process.

Story and photo by Alex Villa

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