Nancy’s and Tony’s Story

by Arianna and Ché

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Nancy, 52, and Tony Caira, 53, of Waretown, New Jersey, have experienced the brunt end of Hurricane Sandy damage, to say the least. But what is often overlooked is the aftermath of the storm, and how it affects the shore-based community to this day. For the Caira family, it has been absolutely life-changing.

While anticipating Hurricane Sandy, reality hit for the couple when the legendary Seaside Heights roller coaster, “Star Jet,” plunged into the Atlantic Ocean. “When we turned on the TV to see the Seaside roller coaster destroyed, that’s when it became real,” says Tony. Soon after that, the couple had to abandon their house. They hoped to have a place to come back to after the storm.

But, to their dismay, the house was no longer the home they had once grown comfortable in, but rather a shell of their life before the storm. Nancy and Tony had to spend five months with some friends inland. Throughout those five months, relief programs and grassroots organizations came together in rebuilding the shore community. But, with little to no direction, the couple soon became involved into efforts that ultimately hindered their attempts to save their home. “We were getting different opinions from all sides,” says Nancy. “And we ended up with something the ultimately kept us from ever selling the house at this point.”

It wasn’t long until the emotional side of the damage struck the couple, as well. A wedge was built between them by their contrasting opinions about mourning versus moving on. As Nancy explains, Tony “kept burning our stuff while I tried savoring what I wanted to keep. It would have been easier if everything just burned down, so I didn’t have to decide if I wanted to keep it or not.”

Nancy and Tony remember the process of cleaning up in part for its small and surprising details. While going through items in their yard after the storm, Nancy and Tony came across a Bruce Springsteen CD. “It wasn’t ours,” Nancy explains. “But, it must’ve floated on down into our yard during the flooding. We are big Bruce fans. And on the back of the album, one of the songs featured is called ‘Lost in the Flood.’ It’s something from the storm we have kept to this day.” Nancy also recalls watching the TV sitcom Arrested Development after partaking in cleaning up. But, at some point the reality of the situation surfaced. Life-changing decisions needed to be made.

The Cairas have gone from being a couple that, together, volunteered in Africa rebuilding schools and expanding education, to partners that experienced losing their own home to a natural disaster. And, after giving back to the community, it is only fair that the Cairas receive the same help and gratitude, for which they credit grassroots organizations.

Today, Nancy and Tony are in the process of moving their home over. They hope that by relocating the house, they will avoid nuisance flooding and further marshland damage, as well as the worst effects of future storms. One way that we can control the severity of future storms and nuisance flooding is through renewable energy like offshore wind. If we cut down carbon emissions we can slow warming and sea level rise. It is still unclear what future endeavors are to come for the Cairas, but one thing that’s for sure, is their overcoming strength as partners will never dissipate, especially from this hurricane. Whether or not they ultimately move out of Waretown remains to be seen. Through it all, the couple continues to keep a welcoming smile while blasting Bruce Springsteen, regardless of the challenges they may face ahead.

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