Request for ’62 storm stories opens the floodgates

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When we let the public know a few weeks ago that we were putting together some special coverage commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Great Atlantic Storm of 1962, we were hoping to get enough material to fill a page or two.

What we got from so many generous and thoughtful readers was a flood – of memories, pictures and newspaper clippings from people for whom the Ash Wednesday Storm was truly a watershed event.

People were digging through drawers and rummaging in attics hoping to lay hands on their old black-and-white snapshots, either their own or those passed down to them. They called, they emailed and wrote; they even dropped by the office unannounced to tell their stories.

The response was so great that we decided one week of promoting it was enough. No Facebook; no extension of the deadline were necessary. We had obviously struck a nerve.

The response alone teaches us that ’62 was a momentous event, powerful enough to move people into action 50 years later – a moment in time that left an indelible mark on those who lived through it.

Their stories, many witnessed through a child’s eyes, bear that out. For some it was remembered as an exciting adventure. It was time off from school, or a drive over the bridge or down the shore to gawk at what had happened.

Others would know the shock and trauma of seeing utter destruction of their homes – broken boardwalks, houses lifted off their foundations, cars and boats scattered like toys – all wreaked by a storm that wasn’t even classified as a hurricane.

Their stories provide a fascinating lesson on local history.

What it reminds us is that we have chosen to live in a place that is at risk of being nearly wiped out at Mother Nature’s whim. What it also says is that, so far at least, our love of the seashore is so powerful that we are willing to risk utter annihilation to enjoy all that is great about living by the sea.

When the conversation turns to storms, invariably the question arises: What will be the impact if “the big one” hits? Well, it seems like we know the answer already. We will be bloodied, battered, yet brazen enough to return and rebuild, again.

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