"We did not believe at 82 years old, we would have to rebuild our lives," said Ocean City resident Paul Anselm, speaking on his and his wife, Ruth's, experience in dealing with Hurricane Sandy. "Yes we had a plan. We evacuated 42 hours in advance, we had all our things dumped on a flash drive from our computer, and we had all our records, our wills, with us. But I've got news for anybody in any business whatsoever: There is no plan that could have prepared you for the Hurricane Sandy effect. Mentally, physically or morally, you cannot plan for a Hurricane Sandy."
Anselm, whose one-floor, primary residence in Ocean City was flooded with about two feet of water, was one of the handful of Ocean City residents who shared their stories with a packed lecture hall in Ocean City Community Center on Jan. 31, during an event called, "Hurricane Sandy, Sharing Our Stories."
Others spoke about riding out the storm in Ocean City - a unanimous regret among the bunch - and of the process of rebuilding and the sense of community that came out of this historic storm.
The Ocean City Historical Museum and the Ocean City Free Public Library co-sponsored this event as a way to begin to document the history of the storm for future generations. The historical museum has been recording - and will continue to record - audio of personal accounts and to collect donations of photograph and videos relating to the storm.
"We realized we are really living history, and we want to record it," said Ocean City Historical Museum President Ken Cooper, whose home was greatly affected by the storm. "'62 was always the benchmark for storms in Ocean City. Everything was compared by what happened in 1962. Whether you realize it now or not, everybody is going to talk about what happened in 2012 - the Halloween Storm, Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Sandy, whatever we decide to finally call this thing - we'll be talking about it for years to come."
But Cooper said the event also was meant to be a vehicle toward healing and support for the community.
"We're all still in a state of shock," he said. "I think two-thirds of Ocean City people were affected in some way, manner or form by Hurricane Sandy. Talking about it is one form of healing."
The event included personal stories and a slide show of Hurricane Sandy photographs and video clips. Members of the community also spoke about the need to be as prepared as possible for a similar storm.
"Whatever your plan is, magnify it by 25," Paul Anselm said.
President of the Ocean City Environmental Commission Pete Ault spoke about the importance of dune preservation, beach nourishment and the current building and zone code changes taking place in New Jersey's coastal areas.
"That's our plan," Ault said. "If you think about it, the pictures that are shown of the 1962 storm look a whole heck of a lot worse than this storm, and I would submit to you that that's because the dune systems weren't as strong and the billing codes weren't as strong."
Cooper said he used to wonder why his grandmother, who grew up at Sixth Street and Wesley Avenue in Ocean City in 1910, didn't jump on the opportunity to purchase a beachfront or bayfront property on the island when it was modestly priced.
"When I asked, she said to me, 'Ken, nobody in their right mind would ever want to live on the beachfront or bayfront,'" he said. "In those days, you lived in the safest part of the island, which is the center of the island. All I'm saying is that as time goes on, maybe we'll all move back to the center of the island. I doubt it, but my grandmother had a good thought there."
Contact Elisa Lala:
How to take part
The Museum is seeking donations of photographs (printed or digital), video, and other items that relate to the storm. The Museum is also looking to conduct interviews with people so that they will have an opportunity to speak in their own words about their personal experiences. The interviews will be recorded and kept in the Museum.