By WIL FULTON
After six weeks of assisting displaced residents and first responders with everything from hot meals to extra clothes, Sea Brights tent city created by the US National Guard is leaving town.
Following a final community meal on Thursday, National Guardsmen made their move out of the municipal parking lot around 10:30 a.m. Friday, according to Onofrio Moscato, head chef at neighboring restaurant, Woodys Ocean Grille, Emotions were running high for the Guard as well as volunteers and residents, he said.
The National Guard was escorted out by the Sea Bright firemen, Moscato told redbankgreen. They were hanging out of the windows and waving. It was a special send-off for them. Before they left, they all stood in line and made a final salute, kind of a sign that their mission here was over.
Aided by local restaurants, Moscato and Woodys owner Chris Wood have been instrumental in providing the tent city with hot meals and assistance whenever possible, as part of the Sea Bright Rising Organization. Since Hurricane Sandy demolished the town on October 29, Moscato admits that he and many of the National Guardsmen have grown close to one another.
We exchanged a lot of numbers, and a lot of them said they would be back to see us open [in mid-January], and I really think theyll be back. Moscato said.
Many, including Wood, knew this day would eventually be coming, but that didnt make it any easier.
Ill be honest with you, Wood said, a lot of tears were shed on both sides. We worked hand-in-hand with a lot of these people and it was emotional for all of us, seeing the tents go down. All these servicemen and women who came out here were amazing, and its sad to see them go. But ultimately, it signifies the next step in the rebuilding process.
According to Wood, even though the tent city has been an extremely successful effort, there had to be a point where the borough took the next step in the process of getting back on its feet and becoming self-reliant again–though rebuilding is far from over.
Sea Bright Rising still has legs. This certainly doesn’t mean were going to stop what we are doing,” he said. “Its just the ending of one stage. We are ready to move forward.
Cono Trezza, owner of Sea Bright Pizza, has also been active in the towns rebuilding, and reiterated the points made by Wood and Moscato.
“Were going to be back bigger and better than ever,” he said.
Wood said the volunteers still had a large amount of supplies, and the perishable food they retained was sent to Red Banks Lunch Break to be distributed to those who need it. He said trailers were still in place with relief items available. More information about the availability of the nonperishables they stored will be posted on the boroughs website, the Sea Bright Rising website, and Sea Bright Risings Facebook page.
Though the parking lot where the tent city has resided for the past month is now essentially bare again, reminders still remain of what happened there, and the servicemen and women who helped the battered town so much in this pivotal first month.
If you notice, the flag [planted by the National Guard] is still out there. Moscato said. And I don’t think there are any plans to take it down.