When I was asked to engage in some first person journalism about being at the Jersey Shore for Hurricane Sandy, I was both excited to do it and a little hesitant.
Excited because, like everyone at the Shore who experienced the storm firsthand, I wanted to share my experience with others. After all, that’s what you DO when it comes to life-altering experienced. You talk about them (even if just with a few videos). But hesitant because, unlike so many people in my area, including friends and family, my family and I came through okay. Oh, we lost some cars and have had our home life turned a little upside down, but we still have a home to go home to. So I hesitated.
But only for a bit. Ultimately, I felt like I could use the opportunity not only to tell the story of Sandy from my point of view, but from the point of view of a handful of others, too. That’s exactly what I’ll do in a month-long series of blogs for The Philadelphia Weekly, culminating in an ebook chronicling the experience and, we hope, looking ahead to where the Jersey Shore goes from here.
The series begins with a cover story for TPW, After Sandy: The Jersey Shore Two Months Later. After going on 14 years in the news business, it’s easily the most personal journalism I’ve ever engaged in. Here is an excerpt:
The neighbor, Jeff, came out with a pot and started struggling with the fire. He splurged pots of floodwater onto it, but now the entire dash of the truck was in flames.
My hands felt urgently through the muck. Finally I bumped into the hose, got it going and trudged over as fast as I could, spraying down the flaming vehicle. He smashed the windshield so we could get more water onto the flame-doused dash. We finally put it out.
Breathing heavily, soaked and cold and smelling like fuel oil, it struck me just then that the morning was beautiful. The sky was clear and blue—or seemed so after yesterday’s tempest. The world around me was surreal, eerily changed from the familiar landscape I knew, but it was a beautiful morning all the same. Jeff and I caught our breath and shook our heads at the absurdity of it all.
This is how I got to know my new neighbors.
This feature is just a fraction of what you’ll see the next month. I have some stories I look forward to sharing. Stories about people kayaking across the bay to save their house. About neighbors taking in neighbors. About communities coming together. About families losing a piece of their legacy. And sometimes, just a story about some dude (me) me worried he’s about to lose it all.
The month-long daily blog begins with this post. I hope you’ll follow it.