Stop blaming Sandy victims
March 14, 2013By Jen A. Miller for NewsWorks
I kept saying that after Sandy, things were going to get worse before they got better, and that's played out in many ways.
But one I didn't expect was for people to start turning on Sandy's victims, and blaming them for their fate.
Let's go with some of the myths shall we?
1. The shore is full of rich people. They don't deserve my money.
I laughed the first time I heard this one. Really? Who do victim blamers think services all those tourists? Where do the repair men, the hotel managers, the small business owners live? Towns that were hit hardest in North Jersey are some of the most residential, blue collar at the shore, and now they have nothing. Look at pictures in Ortley. These were people's year round homes. Atlantic City's poorest residents live in areas that were hit worst by Sandy. Many victims in Ventnor Heights are casino employees who saw their hours cut or were forced into furlough after Sandy. I've seen postings from people trying to sell their homes for a fifth of what they were worth pre-Sandy because they can't afford to rebuild and they're not getting the funds from other programs that are supposed to be helping them, even if they did what they were supposed to do and had insurance (see item 3). Plus, not all of the flooding was right on the shoreline. Inland areas, like Toms River, where people who work the shore economy live because of high prices on the beach were walloped too. Yes, there are wealthy pockets at the Jersey Shore. But there are wealthy pockets here in Philadelphia and South Jersey. Would you wash over those entire areas saying everyone's rich so fix your problems yourself? No. Or you shouldn't.
2. They should have known.
A storm like this hasn't hit the Jersey Shore in 50 years. We've has scrapes and grazes, but nothing like this in many of our lifetimes. Many families have been here for generations, some in homes that they own free and clear. Would you uproot your family, find a new job, because the big one *might* be coming? And is it really their fault that it finally arrived, in a state that is not known for being whacked hard by hurricanes? If you use that logic, everyone in Florida and New Orleans should move too, plus the entire state of California.
3. If they'd have fixed it already, they wouldn't be in this situation.
This is a reaction to yesterday's piece about fires post-Sandy. One commenter of the Jersey Shore Hurricane News Facebook group insinuated that victims of a fire in Strathmere were at fault because they didn't replace electrical after having six feet of flooding. Let's just knock the first one out of the way: Strathmere didn't get six feet of water. Second, relief and insurance money has not been free flowing. The $32 million raised in the fund run by Gov. Christie's wife has not paid out a dime. Just this week, plans on how federal aid will be spend has been released - nearly five months after the storm hit. And there are too many stories about issues with insurance to recount, from low to no payouts, to conflicting information over FEMA maps and how that'll affect rebuilding going forward. SBA loans aren't always making up the difference. Cynthia Ramnarace is a Sandy victim based in N.Y., but her recount of her own insurance woes is close to stories I'm hearing up and down the Jersey Shore. So if a family opted to move back into their house before they got the insurance check to rip out wiring, or they were told their wiring was fine, and the place catches on fire, the answer is not to point the finger at the victim of the fire, and of the storm.
I don't think there's any way for those of us who still have our homes, whole in and in check, to tell people who have lost so much already how to live their lives, or what they should have done. Not only did many victims lose their homes, but they lost their jobs, too, because where they work just isn't there anymore. Think of those repair guys with nothing to repair, hotels employees at hotels that aren't open, casino workers told they need to sit out a shift because of falling revenues. The stress these victims are living with is beyond intense.
So let's stop blaming people who have lost so much already, and figure out how to help.
Jen A. Miller writes the Down the Shore with Jen blog for NewsWorks.org. Jen is author of The Jersey Shore: Atlantic City to Cape May, which is now in its second edition.