One year after Sandy, searching for normalcy

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 Lisa Stevens in her renovated kitchen, which was damaged during Sandy. (Tracey Samuelson/for NewsWorks)

Lisa Stevens in her renovated kitchen, which was damaged during Sandy. (Tracey Samuelson/for NewsWorks)

Residents on the Jersey Shore are marking the anniversary of Superstorm Sandy in different ways. Some are volunteering in a day of community service. Others will go to a candle lighting ceremony on the beach tonight. 

Lisa Stevens is choosing to stay home, avoid the news and put the finishing touches on her house in Little Egg Harbor, just north of Atlantic City. She plans to spend the afternoon telling her neighbors about a new grant program she recently found that might help with some repair costs.

 This time last year, she watched the water rise and then recede in her home.

Today she surveys a perfect fall day — blue sky, orange leaves, and bright sun.

“Far cry from a year ago,” she said. “It’s too weird.”

After the storm, Stevens recalls people telling her it would take a year to fix her house. She didn’t believe it could possibly take that long. Now, she feels lucky to be nearly finished with repairs, especially since many of her neighbors aren’t. Carpenters are almost done installing her kitchen cabinets. 

“I almost feel like I beat the date,” she said.  “It was all in steps. Like, ‘Oh my gosh, I have heat. Oh my gosh I have hot water.’ Any accomplishment felt like being as normal as we possibly can again.”

For the last year, she’s lived in her house, but she says it didn’t always feel like a home.

“[Sandy is] just always there,” she said. “It’s always in the back of my mind. I watch the weather more diligently. I don’t think any of us are going to feel normal or back to where we were for quite some time.” 

A good start, she says, will be getting up and drinking a cup of coffee without an endless rebuilding “to-do” list hanging over her head.

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