As the reality of Sandy settled in this week, Hobokenites from all walks of life could be found outside as neighbors helped neighbors clean and scrub their properties, businesses and cars.
But, while the damage in town is severe and costly, a sense of gratitude can be found among residents.
“Everything can be replaced,” said Hobokenite Pat Horbac, as he cleaned out his garage on Second and Jefferson Streets. His brand new car was totaled before he could even make the first payment. His wife Mary Kate could do nothing more than shake her head in disbelief.
“We bought it three weeks ago,” Horbac said, “with every bell and whistle available.”
The neighbor’s kids helped Horbac, who has lived in Hoboken for 14 years, clean out his garage, where oil from the flood water still clung to the lower parts of the walls.
The surreal mix of no electricity in a town that is usually so brightly lit has also brought many people together in unexpected ways.
“The whole neighborhood got together,” said Horbac, who lives at Second and Jefferson Streets.
“We’ve heard everybody’s helping everybody,” Horbac said. In instances like these, he said, “that’s when you see your neighbors the most.”
Across the street, Kristen Martin cleaned out her back yard where almost every inch was covered in oil residue from the flood water that sat there for several days.
She said she was concerned about possible contamination in the back yard’s soil. “How do you clean that up?” she said. “I hope someone tells us.”
Water also made its way into the family’s shed, which was filled with Christmas decorations, sports memorabilia and tools.
As water poured out of multiple storage containers filled with Christmas decorations, there was only one logical conclusion: “Yeah, it’s done,” said Martin, as she tried to salvage what was left of a nativity scene.
Volunteers who had come from Jersey City helped the Martin family clean out the back yard, wearing boots and gloves. After seeing the need for help in a Facebook post, they came down to offer a helping hand, said Albert Aydin, one of the volunteers.
Acts of kindness like those could be found all over Hoboken in Sandy’s aftermath.
On Friday, William Eberhard drove down from Buffalo, NY, to Hoboken to drop off two generators and at least a dozen cases of water.
Eberhard said he had seen Mayor Dawn Zimmer on television and he figured that Hoboken could use his help. After unloading his car in front of City Hall he drove back for at least six hours.
On the corner of Second and Washington Streets on Saturday, Mike Beneduce from Gilette grilled about 2,000 hamburgers and hot dogs for Hobokenites.
“We have the means, so we’re giving them out for free,” said Beneduce, who is the owner of Beneduce Vineyards. “We brought some wine too. It’s a party.”
Multiple food trucks, both from Hoboken and surrounding areas, set up shop all over town, many of them offering free food. In front of City Hall earlier in the week, Molly’s Milk Truck was rapidly running out of supplies as the line only grew longer.
At the Elks Lodge at Tenth and Washington Streets, more than 3,000 hot meals have been served and distributed.
Another large group of volunteers could be found at Bright Beginnings where dozens scrubbed floors and furniture, with the knowledge that barely anything could be salvaged.
“It’s unbelievable,” said the day care’s owner Wanda Alicea. “You can’t imagine how overwhelming this is for us.”
Alicea said she’s facing at least $1 million in damages, since all three of her day cares in town suffered heavy damage. The first priority, after scrubbing the entire place with bleach, is to open up as soon as possible, Alicea said.
“I haven’t cried yet,” Alicea said. “Not yet. We’re trying hard to get back to normalcy. That’s what keeps me going.”