Down the Shore

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This morning, Sandy got personal.

I spent many summers down the Jersey shore. My mother would ship me off to Sea Isle City to live with my grandparents for a few weeks in the summer. Our evenings were spent eating dinner, followed by saying the Rosary. Baba and Nana would alternate prayers, starting with the Apostle’s Creed, then the Our Father, three Hail Marys, followed by the Glory Be prayer, then the decades. Black beads with silver links wrapped around wrinkled age-spotted hands. Comfort in the ritual.

After the Rosary, we settled in to watch TV with a bowl of ice cream before bed. “Sea Hunt” was a Baba favorite. I would then lay in bed, listening to their conversation. It was years before I realized that their discussions about the problems with the Wolfs next door had to do with their neighbors and not some gray beasts I could never seem to find during our walks to the beach each day.

The beach. I spent hours, days, playing on the beach. Sand castles and swimming. Sand-encrusted italian hoagies washed down with cold Coca-Colas. Lollie the collie, the neighborhood dog who drifted from house to house, owned by no one and everyone, would join us on our beach blanket. Sometimes, Baba and I would walk along the shore. He would point out interesting sites, including the empty lots and damaged boardwalks left from the fury of Hurricanes Donna and Esther.

After Hurricane Sandy hit, I surfed the net looking for stories. I knew my beloved Jersey Shore was hit hard. News was spotty Tuesday and Wednesday, as power outages delayed reporters’ ability to provide pictures. Then, this morning, as I visited my old hometown paper, I was shocked to see a picture of my cousin, Donna, being hugged by President Obama.

Donna extended the childhood dream life of living on the Jersey shore into a lifelong avocation. She owns a marina in Brigantine, just across the bridge from Sea Isle City. Donna’s Facebook profile is filled with pictures of her and colleagues hauling big fish from deep sea charters, and sunny days sitting in the stern of boats cruising the Atlantic. She lives a happy, joyful life living on the Jersey shore.

All devastated. When you click on the link to the picture of President Obama and Donna, you can see the pain etched into her face. Her Facebook post this morning at 4 am said, “I can’t stop crying.” Donna is a strong woman. Hurricane Sandy kicked her ass. Donna does not need a hand out. She needs a hand up.

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Published by Don Laackman

Leader with non-profit, higher education, and private-sector consulting experience.

3 thoughts on “Down the Shore

  1. So happy to see your blog Don. Donna is a very strong women and will move forward and overcome this horrible storm Sandy. My parents also live in Brigantine. Your mom and dad spent many summers in that house on 27th street. I am happy to report that little beach house that my parents have owned for 35 years had minor damage. All our prayers were answered… We continue to pray for all the people who lost everything.. Long live the Jersey shore… We will rebuild and survive. Love to all. Hope to to see and your family soon.
    Love and peace, your cousin,
    Jane Danson Verdi

  2. President Laackman, please accept my sincere sympathy. I pray and hope that Donna, your loved ones over there, and the people of New Jersey will find encouragement and will be lifted up.

  3. Such a poignant posting. Deeply moved by your story. I’ve seen the photo all over the web — everywhere. An iconic photo that says much about the human toll, politics, climate change, and that we’re all in this together. You may have seen the video of Donna’s encounter with the President. If not, here it is:

    My family — most in Lebanon/Lancaster, Pa. — vacationed each summer near Cape May. We don’t know if the beach home we’ve always rented is still standing. A sister has tried to contact the owner — but no response. We’ve been there so many times, for so many years, we assume some ownership. I didn’t join family this past July and wonder if I missed a last chance.

    Hope Donna rebuilds her marina and holds the President to his promise. Seems likely to me.

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