Hundreds poured into the streets Tuesday when Gov. Chris Christie spoke on the steps of St. Rose High School to mark the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy.
Following a short tour of renovated portions of the Catholic high school that was inundated with nine feet of water, 800 pounds of fish and five sea turtles in the aftermath of the storm, Christie had a decidedly upbeat message for the crowd, looking forward to
Christie’s stop was one of several he made throughout the day to storm-ravaged portions of the state. Throngs of volunteers and members of Christie’s administration also fanned out throughout the area performing service projects to beautify and bolster rebuilding efforts in numerous towns affected by Sandy.
Belmar was the first town Christie visited the day after the storm and he has returned several times to see the rebuilding process, which he hailed in his speech while crediting the Mayor Matt Doherty and the residents of Belmar.
“One of the things I saw when I came here the first day, the day after the storm, was the extraordinary people of this town who were literally out there as volunteers saving each other,” Christie said. “When Belmar was hit, it was Belmar that stood up for Belmar.”
Christie talked about the heartbreak and the struggle he saw in the people of Belmar immediately after the storm, when large swaths of the town were under water, from the ocean to Main Street and from Route 35 to the train tracks.
“Today is not a celebration,’’ Christie said. “Today is a commemoration.”
Christie said perhaps it was a sign that the one year anniversary is marked on a day when a clear blue sky was unblemished by even a cloud.
“I feel today that God is sending us a message,’’ he said. “On an incredibly perfect day, I think that God is sending us a message, saying it is time to move on.’’
Following his speech, Christie and Doherty symbolically planted a tree on the front lawn of St. Rose as an emblem of the strength of the resolve of the people of Belmar.
Sister Kathy Nace, principal of St. Rose High School, said Christie’s visit was a spiritual boost for the school, capping a day of remembrance and recognition of how far the school community has come since the storm.
“We started today with a prayer service and marked the anniversary and I think this is a perfect way for this to end our experience in the last year and move forward from here,’’ Nace said. “So we’re delighted that the governor was able to join us.’’