Monday, March 11, 2013

The Answer is No Progress. What was the Question?

As I drive through my hometown of Union Beach the landscape changes before me. The water rises and recedes leaving the aftermath of debris from the storm that changed the town and the lives forever. Pieces of decking, house and children's toys. These things will wash ashore for years to come. Many of the residents want to have hope, they want to have their community however many are feeling lost. Many of the residents are feeling let down by their insurance companies, FEMA, their state and town counsel. Many are asking how do we rebuild when everyone is on to the next big story. As I drive, the big story is that the Princess house is gone, the Whale house is gone, the Castle house is gone. Is my house next? Is it my neighbor? 

As I drive through my town I see families trying to gather their belongings, surverying their homes and seeing what is left of their lives. I see the landmarks are gone, homes left in heaps of rubble and empty lots where homes used to be. This is my new normal. My new normal isn’t about who planted flowers, who put a new swing set up or who got a new car. It is about seeing home after home crushed into rubble and carted away like garbage instead of pieces of someones American dream, their lives.

As I drive through my town, I realize that my town will never be the same. Families have grown tired of the fight to preserve the American dream. They just want somewhere to call home, somewhere they can rest a weary head at night that isn’t a busted out shell or having 4 people living to a bedroom. Families want to know what about me? Am I not as important as your bottom line? Am I not your equal? Why do I get different treatment than the person that owns the million dollar home?

As I sit looking at the bay, I read an article about the insurance companies' rights. I read that they don't feel the consumers need protection because there are safeguards in place already. As I sit here looking at the bay over 120 days from when the storm hit wondering where in NJ does my insurer believe I can find a builder to build me my American dream for $55 a square foot? I can't even rent a two bedroom apartment for that. I sit with curiosity does the insurance company have a special in with the sheet rock companies because I just went to home depot and it cost me $8.65 a board but you want to pay me $2 a sheet. You know what you can do with that $2 a sheet? You can purchase some toilet paper. 

Safe guards would be that the consumer can fight you and win not just watch while you get a slap on the wrist. Safe guards mean that the consumers get to hear from their insurance company in a reasonable amount of time not when you throw a dart at the dart board and say it is your lucky day. Safe guards are about consumers having a voice and being heard. 

As I sit looking over the bay that betrayed us on 10/29, I wonder what the lobbyist, insurance executive, and lawyers were doing as the water pushed up the coast and into the back bays like Union Beach? Were they holding their family members tight? Did they have to keep moving up to get away from the water? Did they need to make that phone call telling their loved ones “I am scared, I have to let you know I love you. I may not make it out of this alive”. Did they fear that the place they called home was getting hit after hit of the waves, a mile in from the water? Were they thinking that everything they worked so hard for would not be in there in the morning light? Or did they all sit around their executive tables trying to figure out how they can save their bottom line and screw the policy owners?

As I sit looking over the bay, I remember the days following the storm. Insurance companies promising to do right by the homeowners, the President promising he would make sure the Red Tape was limited, the Governor preaching that we will rebuild. All the buzz words that people want to hear immediately after the destruction. However, the reality is that the governor only wants to rebuild the tourist areas, the President is too busy giving money away to other countries and insurance companies are only taking care of their bottom line. Did any of the insurance executives have their homes damaged in the wrath of Sandy? Are they still fighting to get a fair part of the policy? I am sure they received a fair settlement without a public adjuster, engineers and getting pennies on the dollar. If you didn’t have to do combat for what you paid for why should the general public have to?

We bailed the banks out, we bailed the auto industry out, we bailed the water from our homes now it seems we are being bailed from our homes because of lack of fair settlements.

As I sit looking at the bay I read how towns are fighting between each other because of methods of securing their own piece of beach and they don't care about their neighbors further south. I sit thinking how selfish that is. Have we become a state, a country that we only think of ourselves? We no longer care about our brothers and sisters. As I sit listening to the water gently lap on the show, I get the answer from mother nature, she will go where she wants when she wants and no matter the reinforcements you put in place, she will eventually win and take back what is hers.

I sit watching the birds swoop down toward the water to catch their prize. I dream of what the prize will be for my community. Will we be getting the funds to rebuild our community one home at a time? Will we be able to protect our property? Will the state actually care about the back bays or just the beaches? Will the prize be that another generation will be able to live in the town we have comes to call home?

As I sit in my room in my nieces home, I know there are no easy answers. Just hard questions. Will FEMA maps/elevations come into effect? Will we have to wait just to be told we need to go higher than 14 feet? How are our seniors to climb that many stairs? Who is going  pay for the elevations? Why do insurance companies hold money if we are trying to rebuild? If I rebuild, what will my taxes be? Will grants actually cover the gap? What is the formula for the grants? Who is making sure accountability is in place within the town? How does a community rebuild when we are not even a speck of dust in the governors eye because we don’t have a boardwalk?

As I sit in my room in my niece's home,  I think of Union Beach it is my home. The Union Beach community taught me about community, caring for one's neighbor and taking care of our own. We are a hard working community of generations. We want to see our next generation be our future. We want the state, country, and the world know that we are here and we want to stay. We want to do what is required to do but we need help doing it.

As I sit in my room in my niece's home, I want answers for my community. I need answers. I deserve answers. My community has survived 130 days without nothing more than love, hope and compassion. Now we need love, hope and fairness from our insurance companies, mortgage companies and federal government. Don’t look the other way. Walk with us and make Union Beach the stomping ground for a new improved Bayshore. If you give us a chance we can do it.

At the end of the day, all I want is Hope. I want faith that I can return again. I want so many things but nothing more than waking up in my home. Waving to my neighbors as we all leave for work. I want to hear the birds singing their welcome tunes and sitting on the sand remembering things will be OK. I want to know that we will be whole again.

I don't know Insurance companies are you willing to be fair? FEMA are you willing to start releasing the money? Neighbors are you willing to not only look out for your property but the town next to you? 

No comments: