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Families fear Sandy killed cottages, traditions

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 11, 2012 at 6:29 pm •  Published: December 11, 2012

Sandy flooded the house with 6 to 7 feet of water in late October. The deck and dock are destroyed. Bratek is in construction and could easily rebuild the house given his access to materials, but he can't summon the emotion to fully assess the damage and see whether rebuilding is realistic.

As is the case with many legacy homes, there are many voices, which can complicate decision-making. Bratek's father has three children and his aunt five, all who planned to use the house in the future and must now decide its fate.

About 60 miles north of Brigantine in the shore town of Brick, Geri Girard and her family are coping with a swirl of emotions and cold financial facts. Their family home in Camp Osborn burned to the ground after the storm sparked a gas fire.

Girard has said she would do anything to keep the house — it's why she has lived in New Jersey her whole life — but the family does not know whether they can afford to rebuild. She does not believe insurance will cover the entire cost.

"We're grieving," Girard said. "And I think we probably know in the back of our mind we won't be able to rebuild because we can't afford it."

Girard's grandfather, a plumber, built a home in the colony in the 1940s. When his son got married in 1967, the family sold it and bought a three-bedroom down the street. It still wasn't big enough as kids, cousins and friends came down to the shore all summer.

"It's a three-bedroom house, but there were 12 people living in it with one bathroom," said Ted Sahn, Girard's father.

Each summer Girard, a community college professor, packs her two boys up and heads to the house. Her sister does the same with her two children. Girard and her children don't go back to their home in Oakhurst, also near the coast but not on the beach, until school is ready to start.

The houses in Camp Osborn are — were — cheek-to-jowl, close enough to hear a neighbor sneeze and to turn a neighborhood into a summer family. The middle-class people who summer in their humble bungalows can see homes worth millions nearby, but rarely envy them.

"You can't measure the pleasure from it," Sahn said, his voice thick with emotion.

Carol Damiano Casale has five family members whose houses in Camp Osborn burned. Her father bought a house there for $3,000 in the 1940s. When she got married, he paid $10,000 for a slightly larger house next door where she and her daughters still go each summer.

"I was raised there, my children were raised there and now my grandchildren were being raised there," she said.

Abandoning the town, she said, would be like leaving family. Casale, whose primary home is in Belleville, in northern New Jersey, is worried about whether she can afford to rebuild because insurance won't cover it all — but she is determined.

"As my older daughter told me," Casale said, "'We'll rebuild and bring hand-me-downs like my grandmother and grandfather did.'"