By Joe Cermele
Last Friday night I was in my local grocery store and they didn’t have bread or milk. Those shelves were bare. But I’ve never been so happy to see the hot dog shelf fully stocked, because that’s what my good friend and “Hook Shots” regular Capt. Eric Kerber told me he needed. I picked up some dogs and gave Eric the biggest marine cooler I had so he and a few friends could feed the people who lost their year-round homes to Sandy in Shark River Hills, NJ, on Saturday.
However, thanks to the magic of Facebook, what started out as some burgers, water, and dogs grew at lightning speed to an overwhelming amount of hot food, generators, canned food, chainsaws, box trucks, grills, clothes, pet food, and ice. By the time I reached the crew Saturday afternoon, I saw a pantheon of familiar faces from the angling community. Surfcasting clubs, charter captains, the local jetty jumpers and surf rats rallied in less than 24 hours to pull whatever strings they could to help those in need.
Driving around the Jersey coast for the last few days, looking at some of the places where I cut my teeth as an angler, hasn’t been easy. Watching the devastation on the news and seeing it with my own eyes have been very different. And I’m not talking about looking from the car; Sunday I helped a friend of Eric’s rip every piece of saturated drywall and insulation from the first floor of his home at FEMA’s request. At 8 a.m. there were still pictures on the wall and posters in his kids’ rooms. By 3 p.m. we reduced half of the interior of the house his grandfather built in 1960 to a wood frame.
At the same time, driving around the shore communities has been incredibly uplifting, because it’s certainly not just one group of anglers helping in one little area. In every neighborhood of every shore community I have seen people walking the streets with food and water, handing out clean clothes, and helping strangers drag sand-covered couches from their homes.
So does this willingness to help make any of us special? No. I understand that this is what people do after tornadoes and earthquakes and floods all over the country. It’s just that this is all new to us. The Northeast hasn’t seen this kind of destruction in over 100 years, and it’s nice to know that people from all walks of life are there to help. As for the anglers on the front lines right now, I think it’s fair to say that with each day there is more hope that maybe, just maybe, things will normalize enough in the near future that we can reclaim the fall season Sandy has temporarily taken away.