1 Year and 4 Rentals Later

By Casey Gale

Director of Enrollment Management Drew Aromando and his family stand in front of a pile of debris that once was their Ortley Beach, N.J., home. During Hurricane Sandy, they lost most of their possessions. Today, the family is living in their fourth rental home and waiting to see if they will receive funding.

In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy touched down on the East Coast, leaving a path of destruction in its wake. Drew Aromando, director of Enrollment Management, is among those still cleaning up the mess Sandy made.

Aromando, an Ortley Beach, N.J., resident, lost his home and most of his belongings to the storm. He is currently living with his wife and two daughters in a rental home – their fourth home since Sandy hit.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency provided the family with rental support, as they are still additionally paying the mortgage on the house they lost. They are still waiting to hear if they will receive assistance from the N.J. Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation, and Mitigation Program.

“There is still an eerie feeling since so many homes are missing or untouched since the storm,” Aromando said.
Residents of Ortley Beach waited three weeks after the storm before two members of each household were bused onto the barrier island to collect whatever possessions could fit in a carry-on bag. Aromando said he and his wife found very few items that could be recovered.

Demolition began on Aromando’s old home after a structural engineer determined that it was beyond repair. His new house, which is being built on the lot where the previous home once stood, is being constructed with an 11- foot elevation on pilings, in preparation for future storms. The family hopes to move into their new home in May 2014 – 19 months after they lost their previous one.

Aromando will be among the first to come home in his neighborhood, as only two of his neighbors have been able to return to their houses since the storm hit.

The small community on the Barnegat Peninsula is in the long process of demolishing and rebuilding, which entails a two-year infrastructure rebuilding plan that has left most roads closed or unrecognizable.

After being displaced by the storm for an extended period of time, Aromando said there is one action his family would take that they did not with Sandy.

“It goes without saying that we would bring more than just the clothing on our backs next time,” he said.

Aromando wasn’t the only member of the Rider family affected by the storm. Lacey Township, N.J. resident Elizabeth Swain, a senior global studies and political science major, said that her town is still reeling from the storm one year later.

“Many are still overcoming the emotional and physical effects of the storm,” she said. “There are a lot of people still seeking funding from the state, but not receiving it.”
Still, Swain remains optimistic.

“We are New Jerseyans, and we will continue to support each other until we are completely rebuilt,” she said.
While the hurricane left many homes destroyed or abandoned, Aromando also found that the strength of the community has helped pick up the pieces. Aromando said that the Rider community has been particularly helpful, as many former and current students, in addition to faculty members and administrators, offered words of encouragement and items such as toys, clothes, books and gift cards during the days following the storm.

“My wife and I are both graduates of Rider, and we are touched by the generosity and support from the whole Rider community,” he said. “It’s not quite the pace of recovery we hoped for, but we have been blessed with support from everyone and places to temporarily call home.”

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