ALONG THE NEW JERSEY SHORE -- Seaside towns in this superstorm-scarred state awoke Saturday to an orange sun whose rising above the Atlantic Ocean was as awe-inspiring as it was somehow comforting.
The beauty of the sunrise contrasted sharply with the cruelty of nature that some seaside residents still must deal with as Superstorm Sandy's impact remains a daily hardship. Others, in the south of the state, who mostly escaped Sandy's terror, empathized and counted their blessings.
In Atlantic City, Sandy's scars are both real and perceived.
In Uptown, the city's northern section, sand, broken concrete and storm debris litter streets, as only the pilings remain from the northernmost tip of the boardwalk, the oldest in the world. Areas to the north received flood and wind damage, too.
Standing on Oriental Avenue near the missing boardwalk and her apartment building, Kemyelle Ali, 40, shed tears as she recounted how she and her three children have been living on that street without heat and hot water since Sandy hit. Holding a cup of coffee she hoped would warm her, she said 4 feet of water in the apartment building's basement has robbed her of life's daily comforts and peace of mind.
"To see my kids have to go through this," she said, her words trailing off as tears rolled down her cheeks. "We'll get through this, one day at a time."
Nearby, the lights of the city's famed casinos remained brightly lit. The casinos and other businesses are up and running even as something seems amiss.
Those who frequent the casinos said they've never seen them so empty and, generally speaking, the city's energy seems to have flagged.
"It was slow before Sandy," said a cab driver. "After Sandy, it's a ghost town."
Randy Rocha of Cherry Hill, N.J., who visits the casinos twice a month with his wife, partially blamed media reports for creating the perception that Atlantic City had been devastated by Sandy. He said the section of the boardwalk that is gone was old and somewhat irrelevant.
"The media was saying the whole boardwalk was gone. You know how reporters are," he said to a reporter.
In nearby residential Ventnor City, homes along the bay side had obviously suffered flooding -- each home had curbside piles containing couches, desks, chairs and bag upon bag of other water-damaged items as a silent reminder of Sandy's widespread impact.
At least there was some whimsy Saturday in a state sorely in need of a lightening of the load -- Lucy the Elephant reopened.
The 90-ton, six-story tall wooden structure -- "The World's Largest Elephant" -- suffered only minor water damage to her feet. It was built near the sea in Margate in 1881 by a real estate developer as a promotion and became a fixture of the southern Jersey Shore.
Even as bulldozers scooped up Sandy-carried sand from nearby streets, Lucy's reopening was greeted at 10 a.m. by visitors snapping photos and taking tours. And they, and others on the Internet, bought newly printed long-sleeve shirts with a picture of Lucy on the front proclaiming, as did Elton John in 1983, "I'm Still Standing -- Yeah, Yeah Yeah!" and on the back "I Survived Hurricane Sandy."
In Lucy's upper chamber, where the guest book is located, the only entry for Oct. 29 was "H. Sandy!!!"
Lucy's Beach Grille, obviously located on the beach, wasn't as lucky as Lucy and suffered major damage.
Farther south, in Ocean City, many streets remained sand covered by the appropriately named Sandy. On First Street, three generations of Ken and Phyllis Hoover's family -- about a dozen of them -- pitched in with shovels and chipper spirits to shovel away the 4 feet of sand that had surrounded his seaside home. A pile of sand, more than 10 feet high, spoke to their efforts.
"I used to have beachfront property but now I have beach property," quipped the Lancaster, Pa., resident.
His next-door neighbor, Bob Woods of Wayne, Pa., who had already cleared his home of sand, said that while Ocean City has suffered at Sandy's hand, "We consider ourselves fortunate. We're still able to live in our houses. A lot of people to the north can't do that."
That sympathy was echoed farther south along the shore, in Stone Harbor, in Wildwood, in Cape May.
Residents there suffered through some flooding and damage from Sandy, but they realize that, given the storm's destructive magnitude, they were fortunate.
"We were back to normal in three days," one Cape May man said. "Hurricane Irene was worse."
"We were blessed," a woman there said.
But regardless of how Sandy affected them, the state's residents have exhibited a bond and resiliency as awe-inspiring and comforting as an orange sun rising over the Atlantic.
It's embodied in the state's de facto motto that an Ocean City boardwalk jogger shouted to the Hoover clan as they determinedly dug their lives out from Sandy's sand:
The Post-Gazette's Michael A. Fuoco and Rebecca Droke are visiting shore towns -- many popular vacation spots for Western Pennsylvanians -- devastated by Superstorm Sandy.
Michael A. Fuoco: email@example.com. First Published November 11, 2012 5:00 AM