Asbury Park and Bay Head are two towns on opposite ends of the Jersey Shore’s socio-economic spectrum - one with many poor people, the other with professionals in lucrative Wall Street careers. Superstorm Sandy has swept away many of the differences between the two.
Asbury Park is a faded dowager seaside resort, still struggling to recover from the race riots in the summer of 1970, white flight, a weakened tax base and, more recently, the great recession. Some storefronts facing the ocean were boarded up as Sandy closed in on the town. Other buildings were boarded up long ago.
Ten miles (16 km) away, Bay Head is a much smaller community where financiers and hedge fund managers own multimillion-dollar vacation homes and make a 70-mile (112 km) commute to Wall Street. A Hollywood studio chief with a Bay Head home captivated his neighbors for many summers with a party attended by celebrities such as Meryl Streep, Oprah Winfrey and Alex Trebek.
Sandy’s destructive winds and epic ocean surge lashed New Jersey indiscriminately, killing 24 people and ripping up shorelines and close-in neighborhoods in hundreds of towns. Neither wealth nor social station protected anyone.
After Sandy, the famed boardwalk in Asbury Park serenaded by favorite son Bruce Springsteen needs major repairs. Its restaurants and arcades - doing well these past few years during a nascent revival - are shut indefinitely.
In Bay Head, many stately Victorian homes overlooking the beach were so smashed that dozens are condemned and cannot be reoccupied. Some just disappeared.
After the storm has come a silver lining. Like residents all over the state, people in Bay Head and Asbury Park were concerned mostly for one another.