RENEE ANTONELLI VALENTE: Sandy did more than destroy property and kill people while redrawing our coastline: For a reluctant moment, it reminded me of something.
Tragedy of this magnitude teaches us a new level of appreciation for the things we take for granted – our ability to freely get necessities such as gas, food and supplies.
Anyone who has recently sat in a miles-long gas line will tell you. But those of us who have not lost everything consider ourselves lucky by comparison — we’d take gas lines over losing their homes and belongings.
Still, how many of us cringed at the thought of no TV or Internet for days, even weeks? No microwaves. No lights. No way to contact the outside world for updates on everything from Sandy to sports.
Tells me without a shadow of a doubt that I could never, ever, be Amish.
It also made me realize just how lucky we are on a daily basis — how we need to be thankful for the little things in our lives. It puts into perspective the now-trivial things like waiting a little longer than we’d hoped at the bank or getting cut off on the highway.
Another unexpected lesson is the magnitude of our reliance on outside influences for our entertainment. As I sat by candlelight playing Monopoly with my husband and two children, it dawned on me that quality “family time” is often replaced by screen time.
There is something so Old School but so magical about rolling dice and dishing out fake but “real” paper money instead of the electronic version. There is something inherently tangible and personal about it all.
I laughed hard watching my husband try to sneak an extra roll of the dice. I smiled at my daughter’s excitement as my son landed on her only property with a hotel.
The REAL boardwalk of the Jersey Shore is almost unrecognizable — homes obliterated, treasured landmarks now just a memory. But the most poignant images for me came afterward.
People actually helped one another — yes, New Yorkers, and even New Jerseyans.
We are more than just the Jersey Shore-esque, big-haired, bad attitude bada-bings. We are people who set out outlets in front of our homes for strangers to charge their phones and devices. We are people who give our clothing and food and time to help the person next door or down the block who may have it a little worse even while we, ourselves, are hurting.
We are people who stare tragedy dead in the eye and say we won’t be defeated. We’re the ones who roll up our sleeves, get dirty, and get the job done. We kick ass and take names later.
It’s that spirit that drives us forward. It’s that spirit that helps us overcome anything.
It reminded me of something Bruce Springsteen said while being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:
“Our fellow Americans in those other 49 states know, when the announcer says “and now in this corner, from New Jersey,” they better keep their hands up and their heads down.
“Because when that bell rings, we always come out swinging.”
Renee Antonelli Valente of Wayne, a CLIFFVIEW PILOT contributor, owns and operates Captured by Renee, a unique portrait business that favors on-location shoots, candid shots and hand-retouching over the “fast-food” approach to photography. In doing so, she is able to create a blend of posed and unrehearsed moments that tell so much about her subjects. For more information: Captured by Renee