A month after Hurricane Sandy the Jersey shore community of Ortley Beach is the site of unimaginable damage, much sadness, and for many the loss of hopes and a lifetime of hard work. But today (Thursday), among the mountains of unidentifiable rubble and collapsed dreams, a series of–what can only be described as–miracles occurred.
Jackie “Cookie” Romero and her husband of 53 years, John, lost their Coolidge Avenue home to Sandy. While the six homes to the east were completely wiped out, theirs still stands, although it will have to be demolished. The couple and their adult children have returned just three times to sort through the rubble looking for anything that can be salvaged–most importantly Jackie’s wedding band. It was a long shot by any stretch. During their first re-entry the Romero’s daughter, Judy, didn’t find her mom’s ring, but found a picture of an unknown little girl. She posted it to the Facebook page For Shore and within hours the little girl’s mother claimed it. Today, that good deed was paid forward by another stranger. In her own words, Jackie Romero describes to rootshed.com what she calls a miracle:
“Do you believe in miracles? A man named Alfonse who lives on the bay put a message on Facebook: “Does anyone know who lives at 30 Coolidge Ave”? We responded and met him at his house and my faith in the human race is now restored. My dresser landed in his yard half a mile away with two drawer sealed shut. He and his wife pried open the drawer and my jewelry box was smashed, but they saved what they could. And yes, my wedding ring was in the plastic bag they put all they found in. I can’t describe my emotions, but all of us have been crying and saying ‘do you believe this is truly a miracle.’ Sandy took my house but people like Alfonse and his wife, the councilmen who gave my husband gloves, clothes from stranger’s, and family support we have truly been blessed. We don’t know what the future holds, but I m truly grateful for the kindness from all who have helped John and I.”
Jackie’s miracle in Ortley was just one that we encountered today. On Wednesday, rootshed.com featured the work being done by volunteers at For Shore and other Facebook sites helping reunite property owners with their lost treasures and photos. Among those who’ve been reunited with a treasure was the St. Elisabeth’s Chapel-by-the-Sea. The Ortley chapel was leveled in the storm, but miles away and across the bay, someone came across the church’s plaque. The congregation was thrilled and overjoyed even just getting this one piece of their pre-Sandy days back. Today, the chapel’s warden tells us he got more good news and it came on a day when he needed it most. “(Wednesday) was a rather brutal day for me. To see rubble where our beloved chapel was stood was heart-wrenching for me,” Dennis Bellars, Senior Warden of St. Elisabeth’s Chapel tells rootshed.com about his first trip back to the site of the chapel. “Yet, one of local policemen, who was patrolling the area, found a brass vase that had been on our altar before the storm. You cannot imagine how I felt to be reunited with something ELSE that is ours. The vase is battle-scarred, but will be given a place of honor when we rebuild.”
St. Elisabeth’s Chapel was located on Third Avenue in Ortley Beach, but their belongings are likely scattered far and wide. Bellars is asking anyone who finds anything of religious nature to please contact the church.
For Shore and Hurricane Sandy’s Lost Treasures continue to reunite people with their lost items on Facebook. Organizers ask that if you find anything of a personal nature to please post it on one of both of the Facebook pages to help the miracles continue in Ortley Beach and all along the Jersey shore.