By Mike Schneider
It has been two years since the hurricane. Two years since the wind and waves and water, all that water.
New Jersey had never seen a storm like Sandy, hitting virtually every corner of the Garden State and delivering devastation to thousands of doorsteps.
“It’s all ruined down there. Every ounce of it ruined. Nothing. Nothing,” said a Middlesex resident
That was then, this is now. Some of the most emotional scenes that we saw after the storm occurred right here on this block when the governor came to Sayreville and neighbors literally came out and cried out on his shoulder. He promised them that we’d get through this together and that there would be a brighter future. This is what the future looks like on this block.
“This was our home,” said Former Sayreville Fire Chief George Gawron
Gawron and his family lived a few houses up the block. They’d seen minor flooding before.
“Top of the brick, we used to get the flood water. Never nothing into the house,” said Gawron
But friends down south had warned George that Sandy spelled disaster and as the Sayreville fire chief, he tried to prepare his town and his family for the worst.
When asked about when he realized how bad it was going to be Gawren said, “When we started having to go in and put firemen in the water with boats. And I had come up to one of the fire captains that was running the scene and the crew came back out and they said, ‘Chief, you don’t want to get in the boat and you don’t want to go there,’ because it was that deep. They said they were pulling the people off that stayed right around the corner from me. They were up on the roof of the home and that’s how they were taking the people out.”
When the storm passed, George quickly realized that life on Weber Avenue would never be the same.
“I went back right after the water receded. It was devastating, walked in and literally broke down and cried to see everything what you worked for was literally gone,” he said.
So George and his wife decided to sell. They sold to a real estate investor who is now renovating what had been the Gawren’s dream home.
Some of George’s neighbors are staying put, rejecting the Blue Acres buyout offers. Some accuse the state of blocking the renovation efforts. Others accuse Trenton of making lowball offers.
“I already started repairing my house, so what they offered us, it just wasn’t enough. So we decided to stay,” said Sayreville resident Janice Porcaro.
But down the block, Weber Avenue continues to empty out, the victims of Sandy taking their memories with them, leaving behind the symbols of their sadness. Symbols that show no signs of quickly fading away.