By Lauren Wanko
We joined pilot Vincent Giglio, owner of Ocean Helicopter, to see the colossal damage along the Jersey Shore firsthand from the sky.
“That second and third day it was surreal. That’s the best way to explain it. Seeing the whole thing from one end to the other,” Giglio said. “It was just surreal.”
Giglio has flown over the coast almost every day since Sandy hit. He remembers cars and boats flipped over, tossed blocks away, people’s belongings floating out to sea and entire communities under water. Today aerial views show signs of recovery — equipment operators work up and down the coastline dumping debris in massive piles. But while streets are clear and the rebuilding process begins, the bird’s-eye view of the damage is chilling.
“Seeing that pier really took me back the first time I looked at it,” Giglio said of the badly damage Seaside Heights pier. “This looks similar to day two right here. It hasn’t changed much. There was a lot more debris toward the building. You can see the broken up boardwalk. You know they cleared out all the boardwalk, all the streets. You couldn’t make out any of these streets. There were no cars, nothing over here, absolutely nothing.”
Rows of beachfront homes were torn apart in Lavallette — roofs caved in. Nearby, the devastated Keansburg amusement park mountains of rubble now replace what once was a suburban neighborhood.
In the 100 or so times Giglio has flown over the Jersey Shore since Sandy made landfall, he says every day he notices something he’s never seen before, whether it’s a home off its foundation or a boardwalk ripped to pieces.
“You fly over it the first time and you’re like holy cow, where did all those houses go because you drive up and down there and you fly up and you see all the houses. There was no space between any of the houses. And now you’re looking at all of this real estate that was never vacant before,” Giglio said.
Farther north, we passed miles of concrete supports, which once held boardwalk planks. Little is left in Spring Lake and Belmar and the pier at Martell’s Tiki Bar in Point Pleasant Beach.
“I just hope they make it better then it was before, most definitely, because we all love our Jersey Shore and we want to see it better then it was,” Giglio said.