By Joe Cermele
It was 7:30 Monday night when I heard the sound I’d been fearing all day. One of the huge trees that surround my house started to crack, and next came the whoosh of it starting to fall. Faster than I have ever moved in my life I shoved my wife out of the family room into our hallway and dragged the dog in by her collar. The sound of the hit is something I’ll never forget. In the dark, having no idea where the tree was going to land, was truly the scariest moment of my life. Luckily (very luckily), the massive beech tree and monster maple it took out on the way down spared the house. They did, however, pulverize my garage and mangle my truck. But my loss is absolutely nothing compared to what Hurricane Sandy did to so many others in the Northeast. It’s just a truck, it’s just a garage, it’s just a few snapped rods, and no one got hurt. I can deal with all of that. What I can’t deal with is seeing another image on the news of the Jersey Shore I love so much, or getting another call from a friend nearly in tears because they don’t know where their boat is or what became of their property closer to the water.
I am not going to pretend that what Sandy did to the Northeast is worse or more important than what good friends of mine along the Gulf have endured over the last 10 years. Given that we haven’t seen a storm like this in the Northeast in over 100 years, the media has a habit of treating this disaster like it’s somehow more devastating than any other storm. I’m not going to do that. I am just going to say that the Ocean City boardwalk my wife and I walk on every summer holiday weekend is gone. Casino Pier in Seaside, which just last Friday I drifted in front of looking for stripers, is gone. The jetties in Point Pleasant I’ve spent years fishing are likely trashed. My favorite bars, tackle shops, and holes-in-the-wall with great pork roll sandwiches from Cape May to Sandy Hook are destroyed. And it hurts. It may not hurt any worse than what others felt losing familiar haunts in other storms, but all I can say is I never thought in my lifetime I’d see such mass destruction of the places I’ve loved since I was little.
As with any tragedy, time will heal the wounds. These wounds will, unfortunately, take a long time to heal. My heart is breaking for anyone affected by Sandy, and I wish you all the best of luck recovering from your loss, no matter how severe or how minor it may be. And to all of my fishing comrades who were in the storm’s path, after the dust settles just a bit, wet a line, even if only for a little while. Nothing gets my mind off hard times like fishing. The first things I salvaged from the garage were a 5-wt fly outfit, my waders, and my chest pack. Over the next few days, between a revolving door of tree removal guys, insurance adjusters, and contractors, you can bet I’ll find time to sneak away for a while and stick a rainbow trout on a Bugger. And when I set the hook I’ll smile the first smile I’ve smiled in days.