By Senior Correspondent Desirée Taylor
When Mike Aponte walks through his Union Beach home, he says it brings back memories of the night Superstorm Sandy hit.
“We could here people screaming. We saw a wave clear a six-foot fence and take out everything. It was unbelievable,” Aponte said.
Because his house was destroyed, Aponte and his family have been forced to live in a trailer next to his house.
“It’s hard on the kids. You sit there and you wish, you wonder when is it going to change? When are we going to go back to just living our regular life? You’re up in the air, you don’t know,” Aponte said.
Neighbors tell similar stories. Some are living in trailers. Others have left, perhaps for good. But the mayor says there are signs of recovery.
“We’ve already taken down 205 homes, with probably better than 100 more to come. So we’re cleaning up and people are actually rebuilding and raising,” said Union Beach Mayor Paul Smith Jr.
But Gigi Liaguno-Dorr, owner of JakeaBob’s on the Bay restaurant, which was destroyed by Sandy, says it’s difficult to rebuild when you’re still waiting for insurance payments.
“Six months later, it’s a little frustrating to be in this position where you have your policies to do what they’re supposed to do, to protect you. And still nothing. You wait,” she said.
When asked if she’s at the point where she’s angry now, Liaguno-Dorr said, “Absolutely. I guess tagged along with frustration is anger.”
Despite the emotional and financial toll, Liaguno-Dorr sprung into action. She’s renting an old restaurant and is back in business. But even as she strives to move forward, she doesn’t want anyone to forget what this community has been through. So there are photos on the walls of the destruction and doors from homes that were damaged by the storm.
“These doors, the tables, the photographs, they represent this community. These are all homes that were either destroyed or had substantial damage. The wall dividers and all of the tables. And I believe it has a lot of spirit,” Liaguno-Dorr said.
This spirit and tenacity are evident throughout this community despite the long road to recovery ahead.