It was a wet, dreary, gray day in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey. Groups of elementary school students and their chaperones had come to town on field trips to the aquarium and the beach Tuesday morning, only to be disappointed by the foul weather.
And then, suddenly and surprisingly, dozens of special operations police officers started showing up on the boardwalk, and Secret Service snipers and agents soon followed. It quickly became clear that the visitors’ luck had changed.
During the noon hour Tuesday, President Barack Obama and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie stepped onto the Jenkinson’s Arcade Boardwalk to see firsthand the repairs that had been made to the area that Sandy flooded last October. Federal money had financed the improvements.
For hundreds of residents and tourists who just happened to be there at the time, it was a moment many said they’d never forget, as well as a moment to express gratitude for the federal aid they credited the president and the governor with securing.
“I said, ‘Thank you for fixing the boardwalk for me,'” five year-old Abby Rapaport told PIX11 News she’d said to the president when he’d shaken her hand. Her kindergarten class had just walked out from Jenkinson’s Aquarium, where they’d been on a field trip, when the Secret Service agents started to arrive. The Aquarium was one of many Point Pleasant Boardwalk businesses which Sandy damaged significantly.
“We lost the entire basement of our aquarium,” Jenkinson’s marketing director Toby Wolf said as she discussed lessons learned from the superstorm strike. “There are things we’ll change,” she pointed out. “[After Sandy], we said, ‘Here’s where the ocean came in, so now we’re going to say, ‘We’re going to put things to the side,'” and out of harm’s way.
Wolf was doing the same thing as many people are doing Down the Shore. She was trying to look ahead and prepare. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted an even tougher Atlantic hurricane season this year than last, with six named storms forecast.
Noting that challenge, some people who met the president and the governor said that the image of the two chief executives from different parties working together, despite their differences, provided hope for the future.
“I have to give them a lot of credit,” said Susan Crowder, who lives on the shore in Manasquan, “We still have the federal money coming in, and Governor Christie is always around. So it is a really lovely thing.”
However, there is some concern on the Shore about the supply of help to the area running out.
“Insurance companies eventually are going to stop covering if [storms] keep happening,” Jersey resident Corey Rath told PIX11 News. “And there will probably be tighter regulations for where you can build.”
While on the boardwalk, the president and governor also played an arcade game against each other called Touchdown Fever, in which contestants have to toss five footballs each through moving tire targets. Gov. Christie won, 1-0, but gave the stuffed animal he won as a prize to Mr. Obama.
Perhaps it was a token of appreciation for the work the president has done to get the Shore back on its feet. However, if the long term weather forecast proves correct, it might have possibly been a token incentive to secure help when the next storm blows in.