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Union Beach

“The Smallest Things Matter”

Jillian Apel is a resident of Cliffwood Beach, New Jersey, and one of the managers at Pluggy’s Too Deli & Subs in Union Beach. During Hurricane Sandy, Pluggy’s did not sustain any damage to their store and remained open during the days after the storm. In her narrative, Apel talks about her experiences with the customers at Pluggy’s after the storm and why Union Beach is so memorable to her and the community itself.

A renewal in faith

Bob and Pamela Vazquez are residents of Union Beach, New Jersey. During Hurricane Sandy, they chose to stay in their home, with Pamela almost drowning twice from the storm surge. Their home sustained tremendous damage from the storm, and they are still struggling to recover. In their narrative, they describe how their experiences during the storm and the volunteer work they did after led them to embrace Christianity. They chose to be baptized in the Raritan Bay, the very body of water that ravaged their home during the storm.

We think, we can, we did

Angelina (Gigi) Liaguno-Dorr is the owner of Jakeabob’s Bay restaurant, located on the waterfront in Union Beach, New Jersey. Hurricane Sandy completely destroyed the business, leveling three-quarters of the building and washing parts of the tiki bar, the deck, and even menus across more than eight city blocks. More than two years later, Gigi is still struggling to secure insurance and loan money to finance rebuilding. In the meantime, she is working with A Spoonful of Hope, a local soup kitchen, and is very active in the town’s recovery. Remarkably, Gigi has been able to stay strong through the process. She hopes to reopen this summer using a mobile kitchen, in time to capture some of the seasonal business.

When the going gets tough, Union Beach get going

Paul Smith Jr. is mayor of Union Beach, New Jersey, a place he has called home since 1956. This town of just over 6,000 residents experienced some of the worst destruction from Hurricane Sandy. In a span of just 45 minutes, floodwater from the bay washed away 52 homes entirely, 100 made another 100 inhabitable due to being washed off their foundations, and severely damaged another 400 by inundating them with over six feet of water. In his narrative, Paul speaks to the preparations taken before the storm, the damage the town has faced, and the progress that has been made in rebuilding.

A preacher and a bar owner

Carl Williamson is a minister at the Gateway Church of Christ in Holmdel, New Jersey. Just days after the storm, Carl spearheaded the creation of Gateway Disaster Response, a ministry aimed at coordinating recovery efforts in the nearby town of Union Beach. A largely blue-collar community on the Raritan Bay, Union Beach received some of the worst devastation from Hurricane Sandy. In his narrative, Carl discusses the origins of the ministry, its work over the past two years, and how his personal faith has helped him in his work.