The 5 Stairsteps: “O-o-h Child”
You’re probably sick of hearing me talk about the fact that I moved to Rhode Island last year, after spending my entire life in New Jersey. I understand. That said, I have to talk about New Jersey this week. To paraphrase Spock, it has been, and will always be my home.
I spent 20 summers, my first 20 summers, at my grandmother’s house in Atlantic City. It’s just three houses from the boardwalk, and the beach beyond, on a street called South Ridgeway Avenue. My affection for the place is such that when I released an album in 2003, I titled it South Ridgeway Avenue and put a photo of the house on the cover. My grandmother is long gone, and I have no idea whether our house is still standing.
Although I lived in north Jersey for more than 20 years before moving here, I spent most of the last ten years hanging out in Asbury Park, which after all is the musical capital of New Jersey. I made many friends who live there and in other Jersey shore towns. I still visit the area on a regular basis.
Imagine my horror when the images from the Jersey shore began to appear on my television last week. Of course they didn’t appear until I had my power back, but the 36 hours I was in the dark don’t begin to compare with the darkness that New Jersey has had to endure, and is enduring still.
I went from channel to channel and scoured the Internet looking for news. Friends, all without power, were largely incommunicado. The frustration of not knowing what was going on at home began to gnaw at me. It was apparent that not just houses but whole towns were gone. An amusement park in Seaside Heights was washed away and its roller coaster was floating in the Atlantic Ocean. The streets of my beloved Atlantic City appeared to be largely underwater, with large sections of its legendary boardwalk torn up. It was, in short, a disaster of monumental proportions.
Late in the week I began to speak with friends on the ground at the Jersey shore. None of them had power, and cell phone batteries were fading fast, so texting became a preferred message of communication. The word that kept coming up in these conversations was “gone.” Many of the places that we loved had simply ceased to exist. Not something that could be repaired or restored, simply gone.
Despite evidence to the contrary, this is not about me. My little island community fared very well compared to other battered towns on Rhode Island’s south coast, and certainly better than the towns of the Jersey shore. No, this is about the people of New Jersey. They are a strong resilient bunch, as epitomized by their strong, loud, and sometimes even rude, Governor.
I have never agreed with the guy about anything politically, but I have always respected him as a real Jersey guy, one of our own. When he complimented the President on his response to the storm, it was a risky move for him politically. For many people, including me, it was a vision of how people on opposite sides of the political spectrum might find a way to work together to make this country better.
There have been more tears than I can count in the last week. Images and stories of fresh horror continue to emerge. But Jersey will be back. It may take months, or years, but Jersey will be back. And when it comes back, it will be better than ever. We’ve taken a lot of abuse over the years, and it took a disaster to make it happen, but the country finally loves New Jersey.
To my friends at the Jersey shore, and elsewhere in the state, I say hang in there. We’ve got your back. Jersey Strong.
Text “REDCROSS” to 90999 to donate $10 to the Red Cross for hurricane relief, or call 1-800-HELP-NOW.[youtube id=”ZWHVG0rSTFY” width=”600″ height=”350″]