I am a stranger to the Long Beach Boardwalk. In fact, when I first began this project I had no idea the boardwalk existed. An extreme faux pas, to be sure. I know now, precisely, how emblematic the boardwalk is for the community of Long Beach. Yet, my little knowledge of the boardwalk sure set the scene for my extreme shock at the unending memorial posts to the landmark when I began my analysis of the Long Beach Hurricane Information page. I have yet to finish my analysis, but thus far I have noted over 40 references to the boardwalk in my analysis.
For my share of this project, I have focused primarily on the posts left during the month of January. For members of the Long Beach community, it may not come as a surprise that a significant amount of posts discussing or paying tribute to the Long Beach Boardwalk appeared during that month. You see, the Long Beach boardwalk was severely damaged during Hurricane Sandy. The destruction was so extreme, the remnants of the boardwalk were deemed far too hazardous to remain standing. Thus, on January 5 the city held a celebration commemorating the beginning of the demolition at Grand Boulevard. And if, for any reason, you choose to doubt the significance of the two-mile stretch of planks and boards to the city of Long Beach, consider approximately 3,000 people attended this ceremony! The boardwalk is far more than planks of wood, benches, and metal railings.
I was shocked by the outpouring of memories, pictures, and storytelling regarding the LB Boardwalk on the Long Beach NY Hurricane Information Facebook page. People posted their favorite pictures from the boardwalk: engagement photos, pictures of their children, videos from their childhood, etc. In fact, one user suggested every person invested in the LB Boardwalk change their profile picture to their favorite picture of their boardwalk…and this post alone (combined with the re-post by Long Beach NY Hurricane Information page)received over 170 likes and over 60 shares. Various users posted additional event invitations personally celebrating their memories of the boardwalk. Some users have begun to create mementos to the boardwalk: necklaces with small wood pieces, artwork, etc. In fact, at the celebration officials gave out wooden chunks of the boardwalk to those in attendance. The boardwalk means far more to the people of Long Beach than any outsider can begin to understand.
On my quest to understand the community of Long Beach after Hurricane Sandy, I have become invigorated by the solidarity and community-building this community expresses. Yes, my understanding of the Hurricane Sandy aftermath primarily is based on a Facebook page, however those 14, 135 Facebook users who have liked the page, and 1,147 members engaged in discussion have shown precisely what resilience can look like. I think I was so surprised by the attention to the boardwalk because I entered the project predicting this page would reveal more grievances and shared fatalism (possibly revealing more about my own attitudes), yet there exists far more support and celebration of the city of Long Beach in the month of January. From the discussion of the boardwalk I can only imagine how monumental this space was to Long Beach. From a practical sense, this space served as a source for tourism and economic sustenance. Yet, I imagine this space served a far greater purpose, I imagine the boardwalks multiplicity of uses and users wove a powerful fabric of excitement, losses, beginnings and endings, meetings, adventures, and so much more for thousands.
Photo cred: Tom Meehan