And so it ends. Another summer season - the first summer tourism season since Hurricane Sandy struck the Jersey shore on Oct. 29, 2012.

It wasn't as bad a season as some feared it would be. The shore has come a long way since the morning of Oct. 30, when coastal residents awoke to damage not seen in a generation.

But nor is anyone calling this any kind of banner season. Even Gov. Chris Christie is a little defensive about it. "I always thought it was going to be a two-year process. We knew this summer wasn't going to be like the summer of 2012," he said in North Wildwood last week.

And, of course, while Labor Day traditionally marks the semi-official end of the summer tourism season - the crowds thin, the air changes, and the colors of sky, sea and marsh sharpen - it's still summer, according to the calendar. And an ever-increasing number of shoulder-season events keeps the tourism economy humming, albeit at a lower pitch.

Still, Labor Day remains a fine time for some reflection.

And while Christie certainly deserves praise for leading New Jersey's post-Sandy recovery, luck has played a role, too.

Thank goodness, the hurricane season has been quiet - so far. As we write, there is no swirling, menacing mass of low pressure and high drama working its way up the East Coast, as there so often is at this time of the year.

Christie - again, not given to expressing doubt or fear about anything - seems to get that, too. "I've got my fingers crossed that we don't have anything big between now and October," he also said last week in North Wildwood.

So with some hard work, high hopes and no small amount of luck, the Jersey shore has weathered its first post-Sandy tourism season.

But thousands of people are still struggling to rebuild their homes and their lives, particularly low-income people, renters who were flooded out of their homes and set adrift in a still-recovering economy and housing market.

That's why the summer season is so important around here. It's all about people's livelihoods - about jobs, paying the rent, putting food on the table.

This one is now over. The summer of 2013 showed we are indeed "Jersey strong." And next year, let's hope: Jersey stronger.

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