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We are Jersey strong!

Last week Hurricane Sandy ravaged the northeast, particularly Staten Island and New Jersey’s shoreline –every Jerseyans’ backyard. The images plastered on our TV screens of the devastating aftermath are heart wrenching. Every time I see people displaced from their homes –having lost everything –it truly breaks my heart. I wear my heart on my sleeve, so this reaction in particular, is to be expected from me.

However, this same teary-eyed, completely-in-awe response was also experienced when I witnessed the destruction that took place of our beloved shore. I was left breathless when I saw the image of a rollercoaster swept out to sea. I never though I’d have this reaction for a “place” but after much contemplation I realized that the shore wasn’t just a “place” for me or for other New Jerseyans. It is a way of life. It is a location that represents an avalanche of many things and holds vast memories.

The Jersey Shore is far more than just a name of a helpless attempt at reality TV. The shore is where you were taken as a child. Where you can, still, distinctly remember playing in a hole your dad helped you dig in the golden, hot sand. Where you roamed the boardwalk of Point Pleasant aimlessly as the sounds of games, laughter and music infused the air. It is a place that produced many sleepless nights filled with excitement and anxiety –for you and your siblings –in anticipation for the family trip to Keansburg’s water park. It is the place where, when you got older, you relished your independence by renting a house with your close friends for a few weeks during the summer months. The place where, every week, you would go with your friends to watch a local band play at the same bar. The place where, for some reason, a regular slice of pizza always tasted a thousand times better than any other pizza you’ve ever had. It is the place where many birthdays were celebrated in the well-known Atlantic City restaurants and casinos. A place where a piece of everyone’s heart was washed away when Sandy brought her wrath.

Though for some the shore is just a fleeting summer ritual, for many it is home. We must not forget that! But of course, we Jerseyans and the shore are much more than great pizza and sand. We are resilient. We are strong. We are not the Real Housewives of New Jersey, The Sopranos, The Jersey Shore or Jerseylicious. We are real. Though we may be the butt of many jokes, we are true hard-workers who are honored and privileged to be able to call New Jersey home –a state so diverse in people and natural beauty that we surpass many other states. (Just take a while to sit back and contemplate all of the wonderful things this tiny state has to offer!) I guess one can say that New Jersey is a prime example of how great things come in small packages!

We either came to this state because of all the greatness that it offers due to its proximity to two vast cities -New York and Philadelphia – or because many of our families have worked hard in New Jersey’s police departments, ports, factories and refineries for generations. Yet, many of us are immigrants who adapted this great state as one’s own and have grown to love New Jersey as our new home.

We are not an envious type. On the contrary, we have a great deal of pride and protectiveness for our own. Our neighbors’ and friends’ successes are ours. Perhaps, that is why we hold Bon Jovi and, who can only be described as the workingman’s poet, Bruce Springsteen, as staples of the greatness and talent that can come out of this small state.

Yes. The loss was tremendous. But we are resilient. When confronted with incredible hardships we always seem to come together. We are helping hands. We are shoulders to cry on. We are each other’s strength.

Therefore, we must stand united and proclaim to the world with full conviction, “Watch us. We will rise up victoriously!”

Tears will be shed. We will grief. But, we must not falter. We are strong. Better yet, we are Jersey strong!

-Jennifer Vazquez

 

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