A visitor to our area driving along Atlantic Avenue for the first time might wonder on this one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy how our coastal area escaped damage.
More than a vicious nor’easter, less (only slightly) than a hurricane, Sandy was a hybrid. Call her what you want, this particular iteration of Mother Nature caused classic hurricane-style damage up and down the East Coast, and our beach communities did in fact suffer a great deal. In our immediate area, Misquamicut suffered the biggest toll, having the most infrastructure exposed to Block Island Sound. Every beach business and most of the homes there suffered some level of damage, whether buildings were torn apart or were filled with sand and water or both. But today, aside from a few homes still under repair and a few vacant lots where homes or businesses once stood, Misquamicut largely stands as Misquamicut has stood for generations. And this past summer, visitors flocked to the beach and took in the sights and sounds of Atlantic Avenue as they had done the previous summer. Business owners rallied together and the community rallied around them with donations of money and labor to help get the rebuilding process going, just about as soon as the storm surge receded from the streets.
There was early talk about whether rebuilding was the right move, considering the cumulative effect of all the storms, named and anonymous, preceding this superstorm that barreled toward the coast as Hurricane Sandy.
But tradition and livelihoods won the day, with all the pieces being put back together just about as they were, with the exception of a few. Even those who weren’t back by this summer have plans to be back for next summer or soon thereafter.
The beach area became a rallying point for the community, with our Westerly-Pawcatuck Chamber of Commerce leading the way and raising more than a half-million dollars and an equal amount of sweat equity to “Bring Back the Beach.” Because of that unified effort, students returned to their summer jobs, family businesses had another season, families from outside the region continued their traditional treks to Misquamicut and the locals reunited at most — but not all — of their favorite beach destinations.
To those unaffected directly by Sandy, the storm, amazingly, has become a distant memory. For those hardest hit, it undoubtedly remains fresh. Depending upon your philosophy, the rebuilding was either right on or dead wrong, but the effort and unity that went into the rebuilding should nevertheless serve as a source of pride for those who participated, and as a high point for the community as a whole.