My Untold Hurricane Sandy Story
Words by Brian Wenning
Oct 29, 2012—About a week prior, I remember walking to the local store and hearing people talking about this “perfect storm” that was going to hit NJ. I saw local business owners boarding up their storefronts and taking their signs down. This got me thinking—growing up in between the ocean and the river (Sea Bright, New Jersey), I’ve seen a few storms in my lifetime. In 1992, my family lost our home to a Nor’easter and had to be rescued by boat and put on a huge Army truck called the Muck Duck. After that we moved around a lot to different apartments and houses while our home was being rebuilt. I got to the counter and while I was standing there, the cashier lady began bitching at me that she didn’t wanna hear about the storm coming again. She claimed every customer has been ranting to her about the storm of the century, so I just grabbed my care package and got the hell out of there.
We’ve had so many storm warnings over the years that I just said “f—k it,” despite the next few days hearing all the hype on the radio and TV that some bad shit was going to go down. I went about the next few days as I normally would, skating the local skateparks and street spots with a few friends. Fast forward to the day of the storm—New Jersey Governor Chris Christie ordered a mandatory evacuation for Sea Bright. The warning to all residents that refused to leave was that they wouldn’t be rescued and they’d be on their own. It turned out to be me and a few other residents that refused to leave. I looked out the window of my house around 9 a.m. and saw a lot of people leaving, including the old school guys that said they weren’t going to leave. The storm was supposed to start coming around 8 p.m.—its 9 a.m., and the flooding is already up to my driveway. Evacuation time was set at 4 p.m. The NY Giants were on at 1p.m., so my dad and I decided to throw on some old fishing boots and walk to a local bar to check the game out. We walked into the bar and it was packed.
Now its 3 p.m. and the bar is clearing out, the wind was picking up to 50 mph, but the flood went down a bit. So I stocked up on the essentials: beer, canned soup, batteries, water and all that. I headed to bed around 10p.m. I woke up around 4a.m. and the wind was gusting up to 70 mph, and the storm was on its way. I had this feeling inside my brain that said to pack a bag and get the f—k outta there! At 5:50am, I was rushing to pack a bag and my cell phone wouldn’t stop ringing with friends and my mom begging me to get out of town—my mom was in tears. To tell you the truth, I was just being hard-headed and wanted to help my father out if the shit hit the fan. I woke my old man up and explained the house was shaking, and said “We gotta go!” We stashed a few valuables like some old boards and magazines—the first TransWorld I was in ’til the last one I was in. I saw that the wind was insane and the water was about 3.5 feet deep throughout the whole town. I called my best friend Rich to pick me up, he was really my only way out because he has access to a boat and a huge truck. He said the only time he could get us was in this 10-minute window due to the tides. He shows up in his huge work truck with a f—king kayak strapped to the roof. He kayaked up our street, picked us up one by one, and we were on our way. I was so shook that I just started laughing like an asshole because I didn’t think I would die in a stupid hurricane. I kept cracking up saying that I had a few better ideas like a high speed police chase, cannonballing off the Brooklyn Bridge. The ocean was in full force and it met the river. 10 minutes later and a few panic attacks in the truck, we were safe at my family business Wenning and Sons.
Every town and city was shut down, boarded up, and just plain desolate. We sat in our family business, talking to a few other people there and realizing that we all might lose everything. The power went out on us at the shop, so we all locked up and headed out. I arrived at my grandfather’s house unannounced with my father. Then I realized I have a spot that me and my partner Rich stash a lot of our Lockdown inventory at. So I headed to the stash spot to check on the Lockdown boards and clothes. I got there and began to move everything five feet off the ground.
Fast forwarding time, it’s now day 24 and I’m writing this, having not slept in my own bed or seen certain friends in about a month. We snuck into Sea Bright, past state and local police, National Guard, and the Army three separate times. We would creep around with binoculars and hang out in smashed up beach cabanas, while filming the whole journey with my filmer Jon Edwards. You can check out the video on YouTube:
Basically it was our Katrina and the devastation was horrible. Sea Bright, New Jersey was always a cool little fishing town that had people that lived here generation after generation, never leaving their block—all drank at the same bars, ate at Steve’s Luncheonette everyday at 6 a.m. This town was total insanity in the summer with steroid freaks and outta town broads everywhere, all hanging out at the tiki bars on the beach. I lived one block away from the ocean and 100 feet from the river. You didn’t need a car in this town. Now it’s never going to be the same. A few people died in my town trying to escape the flood at night, only to be swept away.
See, the problem with a situation like this is that when you have a natural disaster like Katrina or Sandy, people want to rebuild the town in a different way, which turns it into strait tourist bullshit. I was in New Orleans before and after Katrina, and I don’t want to see what happened to New Orleans happen to Sea Bright. A few people plan on staying here in Sea Bright including my father and I. Sandy took it all, but she didn’t take me. I’m staying here, even though it will be a ghost town for a while.
As for skatespots, it made some dope bump to gaps on the local boardwalks that I shot the switch heel on. That spot is gone because they are demo-ing everything now. Even my local skate park in Long Branch, New Jersey got hit real bad.The ledge and hubba got blown across the park. This place is obviously going to be a low priority for the park system to rebuild. Even the bowl has six feet of sand in it. I won’t be skating there anytime soon, hopefully by summer, but that’s wishful thinking.
Everyone around here has two options: Leave, or stay and rebuild. I ain’t going nowhere!