This is the first installment in an occasional series of reports from the Jersey shore from Andy Clurfeld, an award-winning journalist who has called the Jersey shore home for decades. Read the second part here.
News has been my lifeblood and my career for 35 years. But when Sandy swept through Bay Head, N.J., and the home I had evacuated hours earlier, I was no longer the one reporting information. This time, I was desperate for it.
Six months ago, I took a buy-out from the Asbury Park Press, ending a chapter of my life as an investigative reporter, editor and food critic. I was looking to reinvent myself and wipe the slate clean. I had no way of knowing that the forces of nature would take that notion much further than I had ever imagined.
Like thousands of other tri-state residents, I lost my home and just about all of my earthly possessions. But I am one of the lucky ones. I was not hurt. And I am staying with friends.
Sandy’s destruction illustrated our powerlessness. Days spent fortifying my home came to nothing. Living as a refugee, I heard the reports of looting, gunshots, chaos. Like so many of the displaced, I was cut off, unable to steal even a glimpse of the enormity of the forces that cast me out into the world.
I didn't know what had happened to my house. My fellow refugees and I bought food at a Middletown Stop & Shop where news was parceled out by cashiers. A week after Sandy flooded my home with more than four feet of water, I woke with a gasp at 2 a.m. the morning after Election Day. I didn't know who'd won the presidential election.
I didn't know, and I couldn't stand it. The Internet connection on my phone didn't work. No one answered at my old newsroom. I dialed up The New York Times. Eventually I reached a security desk guard who told me President Obama had been re-elected. Read it right from the newspaper he was holding in his hands.
Nothing is more valuable than information. Six months ago I would have been reporting about the devastation. These last few weeks, I've not been able to help a soul. I've not been able to realize what help I needed myself.
But it's about time I stopped being stuck in shock about losing everything except my health and a few possessions, and get back to work.
I face an uncertain future. So does the place I call home. These are dispatches from the Jersey shore after Sandy.
Andy Clurfeld is a journalist who has covered everything from food, wine and restaurants to gangs, political corruption and football in the past 35 years. She was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in public service in 2010, a longtime member of the James Beard Restaurant & Chef Awards Committee, and has won numerous state and national awards for her reporting and writing.