Boulevard, Surf City. Surf City Volunteer Fire Company

By Maggie O’Neill

The past ten years were bookended by two major events on the Island. The first was a superstorm; the second, a pandemic. Both events had a unique impact on LBI. We were mindful how vulnerable our barrier island was to a storm, but not how defenseless we were to a virus.

Sandy was a threat that echoed hurricanes from the past. Covid was like nothing we had experienced before. Sandy kept people away, closing the causeway for weeks. Covid shoved people over the bridge in droves. We had emergency plans in place for Sandy. We had no idea how to deal with Covid. Both broke our Island hearts.

Sandy wrecked property. Covid took lives. One needed hugs to heal, the other forbid touching. One evoked sadness, the other cultivated fear. One stripped us bare, the other covered us up. Sandy brought the community together, neighbor helping neighbor. Covid social distanced us from each other. Sandy emptied our towns. Covid saturated the Island.

Sandy destroyed houses. Covid locked us in our homes. Sandy slowed the sale market on LBI, Covid exploded it. Both saw the Island pull off a summer rental season under impossible odds. Sandy changed the interior of most bay side properties. Covid turned restaurants and homes inside out with tents and decks morphing into living and dining rooms.

Sandy hit hard and fast. Covid lingered for what felt like eternity. Sandy was an external villain. Covid was an internal terrorist. Sandy was supersized. Covid was microscopic. Sandy impacted us and other areas of the Northeast. Covid covered the world. Sandy spread unity. Covid spread blame.

10 years after Sandy hit LBI, we have recovered and in many cases are better than before. Two years after the covid lockdown we are still struggling with mask, vaccine, and social distancing conflicts.

Sandy was a superstorm. Covid was a viral tornado. Both tried our spirit; both strengthened our resilience. Time will write the ten-year reflection on Covid. As for Sandy, LBI proved stronger than the storm.

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