By Capt. Michael GreenbergerNovember 15, 2012
TOMS RIVER, N.J. -- Soldiers from across 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), donated enough clothes and food to fill a truck, and those donations were delivered Friday to help thousands of displaced residents in New Jersey who were affected by Hurricane Sandy.
The hurricane, which swept through the East Coast from North Carolina to Maine on Oct. 29, flooded cities and towns, left millions without power, destroyed homes and infrastructure, and left many homeless.
Analysts say that damage from the storm could wind up costing more than $20 billion with close to $30 billion in lost productivity.
In Seaside Heights, the damage was so extensive that residents were forced to evacuate, many only having five minutes to pack before departing. The town is one of several located on a chain of barrier beach islands that protect the mainland from the sea. In many parts of the island, the Atlantic Ocean met the Barnegat Bay and submerged the land with more than five feet of water.
The town's main economic draw, the famous boardwalk, home to hundreds of carnival-like booths, arcades and games of chance, also was heavily damaged as the storm surge pushed sand under the boards, lifting them and warping them into a twisted image of ocean waves.
Funtown Pier, home to dozens of rides and amusements, stood for more than 50 years in Seaside before it was torn apart in the storm, submerging a towering rollercoaster in the waters off the beach.
In the aftermath of the hurricane, the heavily patrolled island controlled access, allowing residents back only for a few hours to clean, assess the damage and collect belongings. Town officials say it could be eight months before they can return due to the damage to homes and infrastructure, mainly a gas line supplying the island with natural gas. The only means of access to the island, the Thomas A. Mathis Bridge, also was damaged in the storm, further restricting travel to the barrier islands.
Damage was not the only result of Sandy, though. The hurricane also brought forth an outpouring of goodwill, as many donation collection centers were filled to capacity with food, clothing and other supplies meant to ease the suffering of those who were hit hardest by the storm.
One donation center, St. Justin's Church in Toms River, converted its facilities into two giant warehouses where dozens of volunteers sorted piles of clothing; food, baby and pet supplies; and other household items.
Donations from the Commandos were happily unloaded by volunteers here to join the thousands already available to victims of the storm.
"After something like this happens, you think 'my God, how can we ever recover,'" said Father Jack Bogacz, St. Justin's parish priest. "But then one person starts helping another and another, and pretty soon, things start to get better."
Local churches, fire departments, first aid stations and organization like the Salvation Army and the American Red Cross are among the most active in assisting those affected by the storm.
"Out of something bad, good will happen -- and we're seeing it now," Bogacz said.