About The Project

Origins of Staring Out to Sea

On October 29, 2012, the New Jersey coastline was struck by a devastating storm. With echoes of Katrina swirling through the public imagination, the state braced for inevitable destruction. The storm bore down on the state for two days, leaving extensive and long-lasting damage in its wake. Ultimately, Sandy resulted in 186 deaths from the Caribbean to Canada, tens of thousands displaced, and, as of 2013, an estimated $37 billion in damage in New Jersey alone. More significantly, it created a network of relationships across the state, as victims, volunteers, and state and federal agencies came together to rebuild communities.

This project documents the stories of that network; it chronicles the experiences of the residents, business owners, politicians and policymakers, volunteers and relief workers, and the federal agencies that set out to support and manage these efforts. More fundamentally, it explores the relationships between power, access, and representation in the wake of natural disaster. How do we respond to such devastation? What is the role of government, and what is the role of individuals? How do issues of race and socioeconomic status impact the focus of recovery efforts? Whose voices matter?

In the hours, days, weeks, months, and years following the storm, New Jersey residents and lawmakers engaged in a constant and evolving negotiation over how to rebuild the state. Should efforts focus on the tourist industry, which brings much-needed funds into the state, or should they be concentrated on year-round homeowners? Should municipalities build more dunes and compel residents to raise their homes, or should they focus on coordinated planning initiatives that reflect environmental and economic projections long into the future? The ways in which officials responded to these issues shaped the post-Sandy experience for residents across the state.