Jaclyn (Smith) Raftery
Point Pleasant Boro, class of 2000
My heart breaks for my hometown. Every time I turn on the television and see the news, every time I open my laptop and see the photos on facebook, every time I receive a text message... I am instantly homesick, yet I don't want to go home. I don’t want to see the reality of this damage.
For those who currently live in or grew up on the Jersey Shore, the people, homes and businesses that have been effected by this storm have in one way or another helped define who we are today. This tight knit community and the places within it have served as a backdrop to a lifetime of memories.
Many of us our lucky that our friends and our family are safe and unharmed. And while the physical safety of our loved ones will always remain a priority and a blessing, we are each suffering many losses and feeling the wrath of Sandy in our hearts.
Born and raised in Point Pleasant, I’ve carried the pride of having grown up on the Jersey Shore with me to my college town on the eastern shore of Maryland to the bustle of New York City, where I now live.
I remember setting up my college dorm room on that first day, filling the walls with photos of the beach, posting Volcom and Roxy stickers on my notebooks, determined to define myself in a strange place among strangers by sending the message that I was a ‘shore girl.’
I wore my Rainbow and Reef flip flops until the first snowfall. I posted Bruce Springsteen lyrics as my ‘away message’. I had my parents bring me an excessive amount of Pork Roll and a #2 Jersey Mikes sub every time they came to visit. My beat-up car that was so cool in my hometown, covered in surf stickers with sand on floor, stood out like a sore thumb among the shiny new fancy cars in my college parking lot.
And today, living in the high speed and crowded world of New York City, I find it harder to define myself now more than ever. I leave the city and head to my parents house on the shore every chance I get. There have been countless times that I’ve taken the train from NY Penn Station to Point Beach and made sure that before the car pulled into my childhood home’s driveway that we first made a stop at the beach to smell the ocean and hear the waves.
I still, and will always, consider Point Pleasant my home. The Jersey Shore is a place that puts me at ease, it resets my soul, the sand beneath my toes is like the warmest hug from the warmest friend. It always welcomes me back.
There is something so reassuring about looking around a town and seeing the familiar faces and the building blocks to your life all around you. It’s like being able to open a photo album and walk through it, smelling the comforting smells, hearing the soothing sounds. And now, so many of these places have become unrecognizable and we are all feeling a bit uneasy, a bit unsure, a bit sad.
I see photos of the shattered boardwalk that has been a stomping ground for many generations, and I feel a hurt in the bottom of my stomach. For many of us, this place has been a constant in almost every stage of our lives. From childhood days when our parents took us by the hand to ride the boardwalk rides, to our early teen years when those same parents dropped us off (a few blocks away, of course, so they wouldn’t embarrass us) to meet up with our friends or to report into our first jobs at Kohr’s or the Pavilion, to those late nights when we finally turned 21 and experienced “Jenk’s” for the first time, to present day where some have had the pleasure of walking their own children down that same length of board.
These are the streets where we learned to ride our bikes. These are the beaches where we learned to swim and caught our first wave. These are the places where we had our first jobs, had our first kisses, fell in love, had our hearts broken and fell in love again. These are the towns where we grew up, where some bought their first homes and have started their own families, where many will always return.
And in these uncertain days that lie ahead, I am once again honored to have been lucky enough to grow up in a town full of beauty, resilience and determination. I am overflowing with pride and admiration for my town and the people within it as displaced friends and neighbors find comfort in the homes and hearts of others and as teams of people rally together and jump into action before anyone even needed to ask.
We are no match for Mother Nature and her brut, physical strength. But her physical power is no match for the spirit of community. The Jersey Shore has been so good to us, and I know we will work together to restore the shore to a stronger place for future generations. In the words of The Boss, “We made a promise we swore we’d always remember. No retreat, baby, no surrender.”