“…Previous storms were like as they say… ‘the sky is falling, the sky is falling,’ and the sky never fell.—But this time it did.” These were the thoughts and recollections of Bruce Duran, a twenty year resident of the Barrier Islands’ beautiful Normandy Beach in Ocean County, NJ. Thinking he could ride out Hurricane Sandy in his near beach-front property, Bruce had an upfront view of the storm and her power. Very quickly the waves started coming in over the dunes and surrounding his house from three different directions. At a friend’s urgent suggestion, he finally left his house to run down the street, in-between the huge waves, to a safer location.
When the storm had passed, Bruce recalls that it was like Monopoly houses flipped on their sides in the street. As for his house, it was left severely damaged and would later need to be demolished. “The worse part of the storm was not only that you lost…your home, but you weren’t allowed to come back for six months. So…you’re at a crossroads and you don’t know which way to go…” The complexity of insurance companies, federal programs and township procedures only added to the confusion and frustration of the situation.
To save on costs, Bruce—who works as a heavy equipment operator—undertook the daunting and emotionally trying task of demolishing his own house. “That was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. … You think about…your daughter’s graduation, your son’s graduations, your summers, your family…all going into the dumpster. Pretty tough. Pretty tough.” Bruce turned to the Ocean County Long Term Recovery Group (OCLTRG) to try and keep moving forward. His Disaster Case Manager helped him through the process, which as Bruce puts it was “pretty easy”—a refreshing difference as compared to the rest of his recovery experience. The OCLTRG was able to get Bruce the lumber needed to rebuild his house, which he hopes to move back into by the end of the year.
Despite living through one of the toughest times in his life, when asked what motivated him to keep going, Bruce spoke of how fortunate he was to have such great support from his friends. “And also too, you reach out to people like the Long Term Recovery, they reach back to you. And that’s a very nice thing. …And that motivates you even to say, ‘Wow. There’s somebody that really does care. …That goes a long way.”
So what’s Bruce looking most forward to? “Sitting down and having a meal in my own house; spending holidays there like we did in the past; and just settle in”. Despite the difficulties of living displaced for over two years now, Bruce is still able to be a positive influence on those around him: “But you know, you gotta keep a good attitude…you gotta stay upbeat. … In everything you do in life there’s always gonna be a little bit of hurdles. You know, you just gotta overcome ‘em that’s all.”