Ten days since Hurricane Sandy left its mark on towns and cities along the East Coast, some places still have no electricity while neighbors are still trying to figure out what to do next.
"It's something I'd thought I would never see. Something you'd see on TV and would never happen to your town," Union Beach, NJ resident James Kiernan said inside his now severely damaged house. The structure was one of the hundreds of thousands of New Jersey homes damaged from the October 29 superstorm. "See the flood and aftermath of it. Just complete shock. No idea it would ever happen," he recalled.
Family furniture, personal photos, dozens of signed baseballs -- many of his prized possessions were touched by the storm waters from the Atlantic Ocean.
"The smell of it, coming in here. I mean the memories that you have," he said.
Kiernan gave 10News a tour of Union Beach, where few homes were spared the damage.
"It's a magnificent place to live. Absolutely magnificent and it's heartbreaking to think it's gone," said Barbara Zoist, the homeowner of an 1850s house cut in half from the ferocious winds. The "Princess Cottage," as she called it, sits along Front Street, arguably the hardest hit street in the seaside town.
"You have no idea how beautiful it was. Wonderful. In fact, my bedroom is still in tact on the second floor, but I can't get in because the house looks like it's going to collapse," Zoist added.
The Union Beach Fire Department has been on emergency operations since last Monday, rescuing residents that were trapped in debris while juggling their own homes that were damaged too.
"A good percentage of homes in town were destroyed. Some of the blocks in town that were completely wiped out," said Chief Robert LaBerta.
As far as when the town could get out of their emergency operations, Chief LaBerta said it will not be right away.
"We still have a couple more weeks. Parts of the town still don't have power. Even the fire house, we still don't have power," the chief added.
Volunteer Spirit and the Future
When it is a time of emergency, the people along the shore come together. Days after the hurricane, many donation drop off centers filled to the brim with clothes, food, and linens.
"I feel bad for the people who are collecting for here, that don't have a home, their children need to go to school, they need things," said volunteer worker Terry Zabelsky while working at a donation center in nearby Toms River. She is working while her own personal business was destroyed from the ferocious winds. "I'll get another job or something. We'll be back! The shore will be coming back!"
That seems to be the overwhelming gratitude by so many along the shore. While their homes and cars were gone, they said at least they did not lose their lives.
"Just have to start over and everything. Just hits you," Kiernan said. He'll be living out of his car for the foreseeable future, but said the images of his home in ruins will last a lifetime.
To help with Kiernan's expenses, click here.
To donate to the American Red Cross Hurricane Sandy efforts, click to visit their website.