The tradition around many tables today is to take a moment to list things people are thankful for.

The devastation of Sandy - still fresh in our minds and still affecting many of our towns - reminds us of some everyday things to add to the list this year. Things such as enjoying a meal with your family - with the lights on ... in a dry kitchen.

We were given a powerful example of this attitude of thankfulness by many of the New Jersey residents who returned to storm-damaged homes and spent the days after the hurricane cleaning up. Over and over, as families were interviewed while they dragged water-soaked flooring and ruined appliances to the curb, we heard the same thing. The victims of Sandy would list what they had lost: televisions, furniture, prized possessions. Then, they would add something like, "But we feel very lucky."

That kind of perspective is sort of the point of Thanksgiving, a day set aside to be grateful for what we have.

But this year, it seems like the gratitude should be a little more direct. So consider this a "thank you," on behalf of our corner of New Jersey, to everyone who helped out following the storm.

We saw teachers and other school employees who took on the added role of social workers, finding out what local families needed the most and helping them get it.

We saw restaurants that fed first-responders free of charge and businesses that organized drives to collect and distribute goods, including a local law firm and moving company that worked together to give mattresses to families who needed them.

And we saw help come in from some of our more distant neighbors.

At St. Michael's Roman Catholic Church in Grand Forks, N.D., parishioners remembered that a church of the same name, St. Michael's in Long Branch, had sent donations to help them out after a North Dakota flood 15 years ago. They took up a collection and sent more than $15,000 to help the Long Branch church.

Many residents said they only felt safe in their towns again when they saw National Guard troops on the street. New Jersey's own volunteer National Guard units were joined in rescue efforts by those from other states. State Police from Louisiana, Mississippi and six other states came to help, as did more than 12,000 utility workers from as far away as Oklahoma, California and Canada. Some of their equipment was airlifted to New Jersey by Air Force cargo planes.

The dedication of these workers is impressive - as is the generosity of southern New Jersey residents who continue to contribute to food and clothing drives and to organizations such as the Red Cross.

Thank you all.

Find our Press It Forward list of area groups that are helping at

Add your group to the list by sending an email to


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