TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: My name is Trudi-Ann Lawrence. Today is October 23 and I am at Union Beach Borough Hall. Can you state your names please?

MARY JANE MICHALAK: My name is Mary Jane Michalak.


TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: Okay, and your ages, if you don't mind sharing.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: I'm seventy-two.

ROGER MICHALAK: Seventy-six.

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: And can you state your ethnicity for the record?

MARY JANE MICHALAK: We didn't hear what you said.

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: Ethnicity for the record?



ROGER MICHALAK: What are you?










MARY JANE MICHALAK: And he's Polish.

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: Okay. So how long have you lived in your house?

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Forty-seven years.

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: And, if you don't mind sharing, what was the cost of the house when you first purchased it?

MARY JANE MICHALAK: What was it, $9,000?



ROGER MICHALAK: We assumed the mortgage.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: We assumed the mortgage.


ROGER MICHALAK: My from my brother, he gave us a break.


TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: So, how many rooms are in the house?

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Three bedrooms, one and a half baths. A kitchen, a dining room, and a living room.

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: Okay. Is there any specific reason why you chose that house?

MARY JANE MICHALAK: It was cheaper than any other house that we could look for, when we were just got married.


MARY JANE MICHALAK: We were only married for, what, [unclear] years.

ROGER MICHALAK: Yeah, my brother, they were- he and his wife were splitting up and they gave us-


ROGER MICHALAK: -a good price.

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: Okay. Were you- how long have you been living in Union Beach, prior?

[Talking over each other]

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: You had just moved to Union Beach? Is there any specific reason why you moved to Union Beach?

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Well, it's a small town and it seemed nice, you know, and the price was right to buy the house, like anything else.

ROGER MICHALAK: You know, if the same house was some place else, everything being the same, we would have went there.

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: Okay, so where did you live prior?

MARY JANE MICHALAK: We lived in South River? Yeah.


TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: Okay, so can you tell me about the makeup of your family, who your family members are? Immediate.

ROGER MICHALAK: It's just her and I.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: We have no children. It's just the two of us.

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: Okay, what were your occupations?

MARY JANE MICHALAK: I was a beautician, and Roger-

ROGER MICHALAK: I was a rigger.


MARY JANE MICHALAK: For what company?


TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: Okay, and how long have you guys been doing it before you retired?

MARY JANE MICHALAK: I want to say about '88, retired in--I've been doing it all my life, really. I've been doing, "I need a haircut, I need this." About '85 I think? 90. Yeah, 1990, I retired.

ROGER MICHALAK: These are questions you fill out on an application.

[everybody laughs]

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: Just some background information.

ROGER MICHALAK: How many years was that-

MARY JANE MICHALAK: 1990. You worked there thirty-seven years in Dupont.

ROGER MICHALAK: It was more than that.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Thirty-seven years.

ROGER MICHALAK: That's what I said, thirty-seven years.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Listen to the wife. It's thirty-seven years, and I retired in 1990, I think.

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: Okay. What do you like about living in New Jersey?



MARY JANE MICHALAK: Oh, stop it, Roger. She's going to listen to that, he's going to crack up. The taxes. I like the town. The state is centrally located to everything. Airports. Meadowlands. Atlantic City. How can I say? New York City. Everything is centrally located. I like the town. I like it.

ROGER MICHALAK: I'll make it easy.


ROGER MICHALAK: I was born here.


ROGER MICHALAK: Other than that, I probably wouldn't be here.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: You'd be in Poland somewhere.

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: What attracts you to the area of Union Beach? What are some of your favorite hangout spots?

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Oh, hangout spots, right.


MARY JANE MICHALAK: No, that's not true. That's not Union Beach. Oh, you're sick. The senior center is nice, right? The waterfront is nice, yeah. The beach. What else, Roger? The people in the town are nice.


MARY JANE MICHALAK: You could leave your doors open and don't have to worry about-

ROGER MICHALAK: No, you can't. You can't leave your doors open.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Not now. But before you could. Before you could.

ROGER MICHALAK: You say that, everybody will be coming down here trying all the doors.


MARY JANE MICHALAK: You're married to him. He's a piece of work.


MARY JANE MICHALAK: The town is nice.

ROGER MICHALAK: The people are friendly. Well, except the people interviewing us.

[talking over each other]

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: How involved are you in the community?


ROGER MICHALAK: How involved in what?

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: Are you in the community?

ROGER MICHALAK: As far as living here? Well, the storm brought us right here. This was a senior citizen home, a building.


ROGER MICHALAK: And then the first day of the storm, they wanted to open the doors up. I was ex-president.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: He's ex-president at the Sears.

ROGER MICHALAK: And we opened the doors and we've been here ever since.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Since day 1. A year, we've been sitting here.



TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: What do you do when you sit here?

ROGER MICHALAK: One of the biggest reasons, I think, we come here is the people.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: To help other people.

ROGER MICHALAK: And it takes- we have no place to live other than a trailer. So, the trailer is two beds. You know, you've gotta get away. We come here, we talked to the people and harmonize with them. Do what we have to do and meet a lot of people, and that's basically it.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: I come to help the people. I put the donuts out and making the coffee. I'm serving a million cups of coffee already. Lots of coffee. Every day. We used to be open seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day but now we're just-

ROGER MICHALAK: Used to be 24/7.


TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: So, when did you first hear the storm was coming?

ROGER MICHALAK: The day it came.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: It was couple days before.

ROGER MICHALAK: Before they predicted the storm. But, you know, they said Union Beach. There were storms here before. But not like this one.




MARY JANE MICHALAK: This time they told us to go to a school that's only a block away. So when they knocked on the door, they say, "well, it doesn't make a difference if you're at the school or here, at your house. You know, you're better off staying at your house." That's what the evacuee told us to do. So we stayed. The school got eleven feet of water, that we were supposed to evacuate to.

ROGER MICHALAK: One block away from us.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: One block away from us. Would you believe? We got eight and a half feet of water in our house.


MARY JANE MICHALAK: My soap was on the ceiling.

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: So, like what were your first thoughts? What did you expect when you heard the storm was coming?

MARY JANE MICHALAK: What did I did? I did everything in the backyard. I put everything away, everything that needed to nailed down, chairs, everything. Everything that I had was nailed down. There was nothing. Only that one thing was the biggest that I had my grass cutter and stuff. But everything else was nailed down, right? Everything.

ROGER MICHALAK: Yeah, it was secured.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: The house was really secure.


MARY JANE MICHALAK: You know. We were prepared. I had- we had the axe and everything in case we had to go to the roof and chop through the roof and all. I had candles.

ROGER MICHALAK: Yeah, I never thought that-

MARY JANE MICHALAK: We thought it would never come up that high. Never ever in a thousand years.


ROGER MICHALAK: There was so many other storms that came through. We had water out in the street.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Yeah, we had boats.

ROGER MICHALAK: And the tires of the car. They had boats coming down and the cars, couldn't get over the roof. Unfortunately, this one it was over the roof.



MARY JANE MICHALAK: Came through our bedroom, right through the wall. Broke right through in the house.

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: So, where were you when all of this happened.

ROGER MICHALAK: I was sleeping [laughs]

MARY JANE MICHALAK: No, tell them what happened. I went to the laundry room, which we have downstairs, we have a laundry room. You tell her.

ROGER MICHALAK: Our house is slab, step up to the carport about six inches, four inches. Three steps into the dining room and kitchen, nine steps up to the two bedrooms upstairs and bathroom. We was watching television and my bride says, "I have to go to the bathroom."

MARY JANE MICHALAK: We have a little laundry room.

ROGER MICHALAK: A half bath. She went and she says, "Rog, there's water coming through the door." And I said, "Mary Jane, don't open the door." And I happen to look down at the floor and the rug was changing color. And I said, "holy," you know, it's coming. Now it's to the chair that I'm sitting in and my feet are getting wet. She comes out of the bathroom and she looks- we have a television here and she just went shopping and bought some shoes and they're right by the television, and she looks and she says, "my shoes, my shoes, my shoes, they're ruined."

MARY JANE MICHALAK: This is the stilettos for a Christmas party.

ROGER MICHALAK: I'm laughing because it's funny. She's worried about the shoes and the couch is floating.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: I grabbed those shoes and-

ROGER MICHALAK: Here comes a good man right here.

[ambient chatter]

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: So, your stilettos.

ROGER MICHALAK: The stilettos yeah.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: So my stilettos just floating and I took them and I grabbed them and I put them up in the dining room. But it hit the dining room, too, the water. It came up the four- three steps it started coming up, then it went over my dining room table, then it went to my hutch. Then I said to him, "Roger, I think we better get upstairs." The water was- I would have drowned if I stayed anymore. So we were up on the landing, and the water- and I said to Roger, "we'll have to go and get on our roof." Right, I had the hammer and the axe up on the roof. He said, "Mary Jane, I'll never fit through the hole in the attic thing." So I said, "I guess we'll drown together."


MARY JANE MICHALAK: And we sat there on the bed, right?


MARY JANE MICHALAK: And the water's almost coming into the bedroom, and it receded. And you should see, when that water went down. I had fish on the lawn like that. Fish. Where did they come from, I don't know. We had so much debris in the backyard. That big container that I had my grass, you couldn't even lift it with four people. It was on my front porch. The water lifted that up. I'm just amazed, just thinking about it. I cannot believe that water could do such damage. Really, it was unbelievable, really unbelievable. But, we survived.

ROGER MICHALAK: And that was the first-

MARY JANE MICHALAK: But I lost everything.

ROGER MICHALAK: In the morning we got up. I started coming down the stairs, and I looked. I said, "Holy geez." Couch laying, table knocked over, lamps, everything just-

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Everything out of the closets-

ROGER MICHALAK: You wouldn't believe it. You wouldn't believe that water could do that much damage.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: My plants, my water planter's on the other side of the house.

ROGER MICHALAK: Stereo, television, everything downstairs was gone.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Everything. You couldn't even get the sofa out of the house, it was so wet. [Unclear] Couldn't even get nothing out of the- the rugs, putting up the rugs, I was cutting pieces like this to pull it out. Because the water was so- and the mud and everything.

ROGER MICHALAK: It's not all- it wasn't a pleasant scene.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: And not only me, the neighbors, too. The neighbors were-


MARY JANE MICHALAK: But we got a lot.

ROGER MICHALAK: We had clothes lined up in front. Her stuff- my stuff was upstairs, her stuff was upstairs. The house, the property. 60 by 102. 60 foot wide, 102 foot long. There were clothes lined up from my neighbors' drive- our driveway on my neighbor's side to this neighbor's side, that high, soaking wet, that we just carried out of the house and threw out on a curb.


ROGER MICHALAK: There was nothing to do.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: No. The reason for that is the sewage plant in Union Beach backed up.


MARY JANE MICHALAK: So whatever came in, we had all of that in the house, and they'd tell you-

[ambient conversation]

MARY JANE MICHALAK: So everything I had [unclear] all shiny. Everything was shiny, right? Everything was rhinestones and everything. don't get me wrong, it wasn't expensive clothes. I get all my clothes from Good Will. Anything I ever wore in my lifetime was no more than three dollars.


MARY JANE MICHALAK: Know what I mean? From my underwear to my tops to my shoes. Everything. Never go under, even if anything- if it's over $3. What? Where were we?

ROGER MICHALAK: I don't know.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Oh, with the fish on the lawn.

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: Yes. And the clothes, your clothes.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: And the clothes, yes.


MARY JANE MICHALAK: Everything. Everything.

ROGER MICHALAK: Yeah, you look outside and everybody's walking around and walking around, talking to each other outside.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: The young couples that just bought the house across the street are hugging and crying. They just finished the house. They did wallpaper, they did everything on the house. It was only a week and then they turned around and it was water in the house.

ROGER MICHALAK: They're still working on it.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: What did you say to them? The young couple, in their twenties?

ROGER MICHALAK: I says to them, the girl, she was all sad, I says, "come here." She says, "what?" I says, "just look. Turn around and look." She turned around and looked. I says, "you still got him." The house, anything, you can, you do what you have to do, but youse two are still together. "It's true," she said. She even looked better.


[Talking over each other]

MARY JANE MICHALAK: This town would have under where we are. This whole town would have drowned.


MARY JANE MICHALAK: That's how bad it was. A little bit more water, we would have never made it. This town would have been on a map, the first town that went. They said, this was worse than Katrina.


MARY JANE MICHALAK: There was thirty-some foot waves, on the bay?

ROGER MICHALAK: They had- a guy in a condo, beachfront, took a video outside the third floor window. I'm looking at the television, and I'm looking, and I says, "Jesus, ocean is so rough, I've never seen waves like that." And the newscaster said, "That was a sign from Union Beach Bay." How big? Eighteen feet?

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Eighteen, they started with eighteen.


MARY JANE MICHALAK: They said there was a tidal wave, came in so fast..


MARY JANE MICHALAK: One man on the beachfront, he took his son's surfboard and he surfed from one chimney to the other, and he grabbed, while the surfboard gave way and he hung onto the chimney until the water receded. So, you see how high that water is? Used to be a house.

ROGER MICHALAK: But there were stories and you talk to people that, some of the rescuers had people going out and helping people get off the roof, off the balconies. One guy was going- he was going, and somebody grabbed him and pulled him in.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: The water was taking him away. The pets, a lot of pets died. They were trapped and didn't survive. A lot of people say, a lot of people bringing in their passports, they're finding them twenty blocks away, you know, or even over in Hazlet. You know, passports and credit cards, because you didn't have time to grab anything. You really didn't have time to grab it.

ROGER MICHALAK: A woman came in here- I'm sorry, a guy came in here because they were bringing everything here, and he had a box, he says, "I found this." There was money in it, passports, pictures. How do you replace something like that?


ROGER MICHALAK: Especially if you were living here and that thing is in Keyport. You know, the waves came in and pulled it out. Most of it, I guess, is out in the bay some place.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: People didn't have licenses, even with this. I said to Robert, "I can't believe that I-" with the pocketbook. What made me take that pocketbook upstairs? Everything was- you couldn't even get money out of the bank to survive because you had no proof-

ROGER MICHALAK: -of who you were.


MARY JANE MICHALAK: You couldn't get anything. There was nothing. If you, like I said, when you go to the bank, don't go to the teller. When you go in, let the people see that they know you. A lot of people that we went in to the desk, we walked in, "oh, Mary Jane and Roger," going to cash a check or something. These peoples going to the ATM machine, they never go to the bank. They didn't know who they were. So all the time, even just once in awhile, always go in and say, "Oh, my name is so-and-so." Because this way, when you need that money, you lose something, they know that you have that money in the bank. You know? One lady said, "I never come in there but I go to the ATM machine." She said, "well, I'm sorry, but once in awhile come in the bank. I don't know who you are. I can't let you write a check out and get money." She said, "but I need money to live." She said, "well you have to give me something to show that you live in that address. Find something." She said, "but everything is in the bay. My house is in the bay."

ROGER MICHALAK: One thing we found out is that you can have a safety deposit box.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: This is a good one.

ROGER MICHALAK: In the bank. They're not water proof.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Listen to this.

ROGER MICHALAK: So, what you have in there, they're not liable for because they can't insure it because don't know what's in there. In order to keep your stuff dry, you have to go to a bank that has a vault. A waterproof vault. They don't do that. They don't put them in there.


MARY JANE MICHALAK: Bank of America had eleven, twelve feet of water. Our safe deposit box was full of water.

[ambient conversation]

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: Um, so, you're telling me about what you went through the next day, when you woke up and you saw the fish on the lawn and everything. So, what was the mood of the community?

ROGER MICHALAK: Shock. People were- it was shock. I didn't know what the hell to do. What do you do? You start throwing stuff out or-


ROGER MICHALAK: Everybody started taking stuff out slowly. After- we thought we were going to have a party, a block party with everybody out there. There was a lot of beer flowing around.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Yes, there was. Being in the streets, someone said, "you want a beer?" and I says, "No, I don't have time to even stop."

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: So, did you have anyone that you needed to contact, like family members or anyone?

ROGER MICHALAK: Just your sisters. That's about all. Called her. [Unclear] I don't worry about him, which he was leaning on the side of his bed until she came down.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Oh my god. We couldn't believe it.

ROGER MICHALAK: I says, "do you think I would BS you?" She seemed- she was shocked. She started crying. You know, anybody would. But they helped us out a lot.

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: So, um, where did you stay?

MARY JANE MICHALAK: We stayed in the house.

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: With everything that was --

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Oh yeah, we had no place to go.

ROGER MICHALAK: We had no place to go. Throw another blanket on.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Another blanket, and the water in the house, and started getting everything out. It took us almost, god how long? To clean the house out. About three, four weeks to get picked up- all the rugs, and clothes, everything. Everything in the kitchen. Everything.

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: So, I just [unclear] my subject. Who did you look to for support? Did you contact FEMA? Insurance companies? Etc…? How long did the response take from them?

ROGER MICHALAKL: Well, FEMA was here pretty quick.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Yeah FEMA came, yeah, I think two days or three days.


MARY JANE MICHALAK: Because we were here first, the day of the storm, and we start feeding people, right? All the restaurants start bringing stuff. Food and sandwiches and everything. We were here, right? So, FEMA told us, you need to go to Albany, New York or to go to Dayton, Ohio, because the whole east coast was booked.

ROGER MICHALAK: Places to stay. We couldn't find a place.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Couldn't find a place to stay. So we stayed in the house, and he says, "you know, let me call a real estate and see if they have a mobile home." He'll tell you about it. And the real estate lady we got. We had to put a $2,000 deposit, $2,000 for the rent, a month, we pay, and so we got the mobile home. So we went in, what, two days after? Two days after we were there. So, we were in the house for six days, seven days before we got a place.

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: So, how were you coping with everything.


MARY JANE MICHALAK: Well, the man, the dinette on thirty-five gave Roger and I two beds and a mattress, and he gave us a table and two chairs, and that's what we have in our home. That's it. That's it.

ROGER MICHALAK: And a lot of boxes with stuff in them.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: A lot of boxes with little things.

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: You were able to salvage some things from the house?

ROGER MICHALAK: Yeah, well, you have to take clothes, you know.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: I didn't take any clothes. You got clothes.

ROGER MICHALAK: I got, yeah, dungarees and t-shirts, underwear and stuff.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: I went to the Child's World where they were giving things out.

ROGER MICHALAK: Your bras, too.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: The bras, underwear, everything, I got there, because there was nothing. Shoes, everything was gone. Everything of mine. He had clothes.

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: How did you notice your community coping?

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Oh, god, it was terrible.

ROGER MICHALAK: Yeah, it was-

MARY JANE MICHALAK: It was a disaster. People were crying-

ROGER MICHALAK: It's hard to explain because you come in and you talk and you don't even remember half of this stuff, because everybody was in the same position. You know, out of a house or in the house, everything's gone and they're standing there, looking. "I had water up to here." "Oh, I had water up to here."


ROGER MICHALAK: What do you do? What do you do? The contractors running around, coming down-

MARY JANE MICHALAK: -and ripping people off. The whole town, you know? But the first couple days, it was chaos here. People are washing up and using the bathroom here to wash up and brush their teeth or whatever, and whatever we had here, the community, Union Beach, and this Salvation Army gave stuff out, blankets and everything.


MARY JANE MICHALAK: Firehouse, with showers. They had the Laundromats. The trailers with Laundromats. This was, I would say, a week later, right?


MARY JANE MICHALAK: A week later. And then the rest of the food coming in from the restaurants. It was amazing. He fed people for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, separate, in his kitchen, and outside.

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: Did you feel safe, with everything going on? Did you have to worry about looting, and-?

MARY JANE MICHALAK: No, they warned us about looting. A lot of people-

ROGER MICHALAK: Police came from Michigan, Canada, all over. And the Michigan State Troopers came and there was no bullshit when they came in. You come in here and they were giving stuff out and you had to have, "where do you live?" "Oh, I'm from Union Beach, I live here." But there's no way to check, so one girl, trooper, sat there, she says, "I'll make it easy," because this was all people.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: People coming in.

ROGER MICHALAK: She says, "We'll make it easy for you. Photo ID." That place emptied out.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Because they were coming from up north, all over.

ROGER MICHALAK: People from Newark-


ROGER MICHALAK: All over. Staten Island. Coming in-

MARY JANE MICHALAK: For free stuff.

ROGER MICHALAK: Taking supplies.


TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: That's terrible.

ROGER MICHALAK: This place got looted more by accident, just "I need a rake to do this," here they were handing out rakes.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: They weren't even questioning, they were just handing out rakes, figuring people in town-

ROGER MICHALAK: Cleaning supplies, the mops. In fact, there's still mops here some place.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Yeah. You could see people from, like, Port Monmouth, Keansburg. A lot of people we knew there from the area, but Staten Island, because they weren't getting anything in Staten Island, so they came over the bridge.

ROGER MICHALAK: Hazlet didn't have anything. This was the supply house, for everything.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: This was the hub, right there. That was it. But food-wise, people would come. This place was filled with canned stuff, food and everything.

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: How do you feel about the response that you got from both, like, the local government and local organizations, from insurance companies and FEMA?

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Well, FEMA, the girls helped me and you because we didn't have a computer. I have to say that they helped a lot. They put everything, our information, into the computer, and helped us with our rent. A lot of people didn't know what to do. They couldn't do it. So, they did help Roger and I. But otherwise-

ROGER MICHALAK: The insurance company-

MARY JANE MICHALAK: The insurance company-

ROGER MICHALAK: The first came down, the first thing they did was get your information, do this, they sent you a check. $10,000?

MARY JANE MICHALAK: $10,000. To start.

ROGER MICHALAK: You know, this is a start.

[ambient conversation]

ROGER MICHALAK: But there was no- I can't say it. They gave you $10,000 but they didn't- There was contractors coming and you know, doing this. You had to watch who you talked to because they were ripping everybody off. There was good ones and bad ones, just like everything else.

[ambient noise.]

ROGER MICHALAK: Then you wonder, who do you trust? By the time we got going-

[ambient noise]

ROGER MICHALAK: So, uh, they did what they had to do, with-

MARY JANE MICHALAK: But the insurance company we had, we had a $250,000 policy, and they gave us not even enough to buy a car, to build a house.



TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: Do you think that New Jersey prepared adequately?

ROGER MICHALAK: They weren't prepared at all.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: No, they weren't, no.

ROGER MICHALAK: They weren't prepared at all.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Even they had that Jersey Strong with the $10,000 to give each family, whoever got fifty percent or more on that. Even that, everybody, a lot of people say, "oh, I got it, I got it." We filled it out five days after the storm, and we just got it last week. But you can only use it for- you can't build a house with it. You can go on a cruise and buy a car and put shrubs down, or do whatever, but you can't use it. And you have to live in Monmouth County for three years, in order to use that money. [sighs]

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: Is there anything that the state could have done differently, prior to the storm happening, so it wouldn't have been such a devastation?

MARY JANE MICHALAK: The burms, they should have put it up ten years ago.

ROGER MICHALAK: Yeah. They had plans here to stop the-


ROGER MICHALAK: Flood gates. They had a plan and, "oh, we're going to do it." Since the last one, and if they did that, we wouldn't have been hurt as much.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: We wouldn't. It really--

ROGER MICHALAK: But they didn't. It cost too much money, they put it on the backburner.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Because ten, fifteen years ago they had it and they should have did it. They should have did it.

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: So, do you think that there's anyone to blame for the storm, or it was just a natural occurrence?

MARY JANE MICHALAK: It was an act of God. It was--

ROGER MICHALAK: If the people that were in power at the time did what they should have done ten years ago, it would have been an entirely different ball game.

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: Okay, so what do you think about the media coverage? Do you think it was accurately portrayed about Union Beach, or it was more so sensationalized?

MARY JANE MICHALAK: No, it was accurate. They came to the people, they came to families and all. I think they did a great job. Really, really did a great job, I have to say that.

ROGER MICHALAK: We're fortunate enough to be here, or unfortunate, and when they reported, it was-


ROGER MICHALAK: That was what was going on.

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: So, what do you make of the president and the governor making their appearances in the area?


ROGER MICHALAK: I can watch them on television. There's too much- "the shore is open, Jersey shore is fixed." Then how come people aren't in their houses? It was BS. Political bullshit.

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: Did your opinion of Christie change?

ROGER MICHALAK: No, I didn't like him before, I don't like him now.


ROGER MICHALAK: I can't say that?


TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: How do you feel the response from the country compares, like, to the response given in any other disaster?

ROGER MICHALAK: They respond more to foreign countries than they do to their own country. You know, they think nothing of sending $92 billion over to a country that's, that had this or had that.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Yeah. Even the fact to say we have volunteers that come here that said that Katrina, in five years, still didn't even- it's like a ghost town. They still don't. Now can you imagine here, on the east coast? If they're waiting five years to get done, right here in the US? Then, here? These are volunteers coming from Katrina. They still have tent cities and everything. It's chaos there. And they come here, and they said it'll be another ten years for the east coast to get on your feet. How's that one? You mean help our country?

ROGER MICHALAK: What happened with Katrina, so we've heard, they came in to New Orleans and they gave the people money. The people took the money and ran. They didn't throw money back into the towns or stuff like that. So, what FEMA did after that was, "here, we'll give you so much."

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Yeah, to fix up-

ROGER MICHALAK: But it's not enough. And they didn't give it. If they gave any money out, I would have been on it. It's real sad.

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: Has this shaped your environmental views in any way?

MARY JANE MICHALAK: No, not really.

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: Do you think that it makes you want to change anything personally, like move from Union Beach or raise your house even, or take extra precautions?

MARY JANE MICHALAK: It's not that- I don't want to move. I really like the town. I like the people. It's good. Financially, money-wise-

ROGER MICHALAK: Too expensive.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Too expensive living.

ROGER MICHALAK: Too expensive to rebuild with the money that you got, that the insurance companies gave you. If they gave you what your house was worth to build another house-

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Everybody would stay.

ROGER MICHALAK: Everyone would rebuild. You have no idea how many people-


ROGER MICHALAK: Walked away. They came over, sit here, and they're gone.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Gave me a hug and say, "I'm going here and I'm going there."

ROGER MICHALAK: She just got a letter from somebody.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: I just got a letter from Caroline, on 7th Street, up here, who said, "good luck if you're going to build or you going to walk." You know?

ROGER MICHALAK: They're gone.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: They're gone. They're in North Carolina.

ROGER MICHALAK: They had a drug alliance picnic here a couple weeks ago. The park used to be full of people.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Couldn't move.

ROGER MICHALAK: This week it was like a farewell because people were coming and saying goodbye.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: They were hugging me and saying goodbye.

ROGER MICHALAK: "Today's our last-"

MARY JANE MICHALAK: "Today's our last day here." They're moving out with their children and all.

ROGER MICHALAK: They're going to lose, I would say, half the- maybe not half the population.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Better than half, they said.

ROGER MICHALAK: Better than half? They move out.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: They're moving out of the town.

ROGER MICHALAK: They don't have- what they had, they can't rebuild with what they were given. So, it's not the people. The people want to stay. It's the insurance company and the banking industry. The entire structure-

MARY JANE MICHALAK: I want to tell you how bad the town is. Now, our house is down, demolished, a week and a half ago, right? I still have to pay my sewer bill, I still have to pay my taxes. Even though I don't have a house, I still have to pay my taxes until August of 2014, because if I don't pay, if I don't pay the town will be bankrupt and we'll have nothing. That's why people are walking away. There are so many foreclosures, the people who are going to live here and own property here still have to pay the house taxes, even if they don't have a house.


MARY JANE MICHALAK: I'm not paying on my land. I'm paying on something I don't even have on my land, I still have to pay it.


MARY JANE MICHALAK: These families just walk away. "Let them take it, let them take the property, tax deduction."

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: Right. So, I know that this is a funny question, but do you think that people have returned to normal for you, or is it like a new normal?


ROGER MICHALAK: We're nowhere near normal.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: No normal. There was a closure when the house went down because you kept looking at the house everyday after day after day. You know, a lot of people [unclear]. Now we're starting [unclear]. But when do we start?

ROGER MICHALAK: And we eat McDonald's more often.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Yeah, he eats at McDonald's more often. We do buy-one-get-one-free or whatever. You know, it's hard. Hard decisions. It's a hard decision. That's all.

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: So, um, what problems are you still facing?

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Where to go and what to do.

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: Where to go and what to do?

ROGER MICHALAK: Yeah, that's-

MARY JANE MICHALAK: At our age, I could see younger and up here mentally the same, you know?

ROGER MICHALAK: It's stress.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: A lot of stresses. Senior building- you know, it's expensive. Nothing cheaper. A lot of the seniors went into the senior building and it's very expensive.

ROGER MICHALAK: Yeah, they're taking people, mortgages paid for. The house is paid for, now they don't have the house- but you can't sell it for what you put into it, because you know, who's gonna buy a flood house?

MARY JANE MICHALAK: You couldn't buy a house in Union Beach, that's what they're gonna say.

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: So, have your outlook on the community changed since the storm?


ROGER MICHALAK: The community's a good community. Can't complain about that. Small town. People get along, work together.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Everyone says hello. You know, it's a nice town to live in. Very nice.

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: Do you think that the storm had an impact on the presidential election?

MARY JANE MICHALAK: No. I don't think so.

ROGER MICHALAK: Maybe on the governor election.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Governor, yeah, not the president.


ROGER MICHALAK: Because people are gonna change the way they vote.

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: Well, when I asked that question, I'm saying that, taking into account that a lot of people were unable to vote or, you know, because of voting areas, so you do think that that could have possibly had an impact?

MARY JANE MICHALAK: No, because we had the voting area right here.


MARY JANE MICHALAK: They used to use the senior building but they used the courthouse for both sides.


MARY JANE MICHALAK: Democrat and Republican. They had the lady who was picking up people. They had the car service and everything for people to go, and a lot of people that were out of town, that were staying in Port Monmouth and stuff, came into vote. They did vote.

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: But you said the governor election, you think that there will be an impact on?

MARY JANE MICHALAK: You better believe it.

[Talking over each other]

MARY JANE MICHALAK: I don't care how much weight he loses, he's gonna lose, too.


TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: Okay, so if you wanted to give a message about the storm, or, like, the legacy it carries, what would that be?

MARY JANE MICHALAK: I can't say- you can't prepare for anything.


MARY JANE MICHALAK: You know. God's gonna do what he wants to do. You just can't prepare for it.

ROGER MICHALAK: Move your cars to higher ground, put your money in your pocket, and go.

[Everybody laughing]

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Piece of work, Roger.


MARY JANE MICHALAK: You'll never forget. You will never in a million years forget Sandy, and for it to ever happen again, it's devastating.


TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: Do you have any advice? Because, you know, there's a lot of disasters and devastations that have happened since the storm, so what would your word of advice be, coming from one person who has lived through a devastation to another family who, like, those from the tornado that happened in Moore?


ROGER MICHALAK: I don't know.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: I figure, you keep your papers together and keep your life organized, because you don't think anything's gonna happen, you know, to say, "where's this paper, where's that?" Be organized.

ROGER MICHALAK: When they say, have an evacuation, go. Keep all your papers, that's the biggest thing. Keep everything in one spot where you can just go like this, and go. You know, important papers, like the Washingtons and the Grants.


ROGER MICHALAK: Well, that's important paper. You know, you gotta keep that where you can just grab it and go.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: And when they say evacuate, evacuate. Don't even hesitate. We did it all the time, didn't we Roger? We did it every time and this time we stayed. Right?


TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: Now that the one-year anniversary is approaching, overall how do you feel, looking back? Are you still hurting, or do you feel like you're getting closure and you're finally able to move on?

MARY JANE MICHALAK: No, with everything, we're still hurting, right, Roger? We are, we're still hurting. Not knowing what you're gonna do next.

ROGER MICHALAK: It's something you'll never forget.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Never forget it. No.


MARY JANE MICHALAK: It still hurts, even thinking about it, even talking about it. You know, it's hard. Very hard.

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: Is there anything else that I might have missed, that you want to share on the record?

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Anything, Roger, anything that she missed on the record?

ROGER MICHALAK: No, you- you sat there patiently, listening to everything we said.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: I could add that the people and the volunteers in this town-


MARY JANE MICHALAK: I can't say enough about them. If it wasn't for Gateway, for United Way, Habitat, Robinhood Foundation, RAINE Foundation, the charities, our new Salvation Army, the Red Cross, I have to say-

ROGER MICHALAK: You wanna get shot?

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Red Cross didn't help that much, but I'm saying. The Red Cross. I'm telling you, it was just amazing. It really, really was. These volunteers, they come every day. Everyday they come in. If they have an hour at night, they come in. Would you believe it? You know.

TRUDI-ANN LAWRENCE: Okay, well, I think that's it.

MARY JANE MICHALAK: Okay, sweetheart.

0:00 - Interview introduction

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript:My name is Trudi-Ann Lawrence. Today is October 23 and I am at Union Beach Borough Hall.

Segment Synopsis: An introduction to the interview with Mary Jane and Roger Michalak.



0:06 - Brief biography

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript:Can you state your names please?

Segment Synopsis: The Michalaks share their previous occupations and their reasoning as to why they currently reside in Union Beach, New Jersey. They also discuss their favorite spots to spend their free time.

Keywords: Area; Bedrooms; Beds; Brother; Children; Community; Cost; Dining room; Doors; Ethnicity; Family; Help; House; Information; Involved; Kitchen; Lived; Living room; Mortgage; Moved; New Jersey; New York City; Occupation; President; Rooms; Small town; South River; State; Taxes; Town; Union Beach


GPS: Union Beach, Nj.
Map Coordinates: 40.446430, -74.177980

6:14 - First word of the storm

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript:So, when did you first hear the storm was coming?

Segment Synopsis: Mary Jane describes how her and her husband were told to evacuate to a school which ended up getting eleven feet of water inside. They also tell about the water rising in their house while Hurricane Sandy hit.

Keywords: Bedroom; Beds; Boats; Candles; Car; Damage; Debris; Dining room; Doors; Evacuate; Expect; First thoughts; Floors; House; Kitchen; Predict; Prepared; Roof; Rooms; School; Secure; Sleep; Storm; Street; Survived; Television; Union Beach; Wall; Water; Wet


12:56 - Neighbors distraught after the storm

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript:No. The reason for that is the sewage plant in Union Beach backed up.

Segment Synopsis: Roger shares how a neighbor was very upset about the damage to her house but he was able to make her feel better by making her realize she still had her significant other. Mary Jane also discusses the fact that it was hard to do many things after Hurricane Sandy because not many people had proper identification with them.

Keywords: Beachfront; Floors; Hazlet; Helping; House; Hurricane Katrina; Katrina; Keyport; Lost; Money; Morning; Neighbors; Outside; Pets; Pictures; Rescue; Stories; Street; Survived; Television; Town; Union Beach; Water; Windows; Working


19:23 - Mood of the community / coping

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript:Um, so, you're telling me about what you went through the next day, when you woke up and you saw the fish on the lawn and everything. So, what was the mood of the community?

Segment Synopsis: Mary Jane talks about the support from FEMA and living in a mobile home. She also describes that all of her clothing was damaged so she had to go to a store in her community which were giving clothing items out.

Keywords: Beds; Blanket; Blankets; Clean; Clean up; Community; Contact; Contractors; Coping; Disaster; Family; FEMA; Firehouse; Food; Helped; Home; House; Insurance companies; Kitchen; Mood; Response; Salvage; Sister; Storm; Street; Support; Town; Union Beach; Water; Weeks


25:23 - Safety

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript:Did you feel safe, with everything going on? Did you have to worry about looting, and-?

Segment Synopsis: Roger explains that people from all over were coming to Union Beach to obtain free supplies and food. He also discusses how some contractors were going around and ripping people off.

Keywords: Area; Car; Cleaning supplies; Contractors; Food; Helped; House; Information; Insurance companies; Keansburg; Looting; Organizations; Police; Port Monmouth; Renting; Response; Safe; State; Supplies; Union Beach


29:05 - New Jersey's preparedness / media coverage / environmental views

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript:Do you think that New Jersey prepared adequately?

Segment Synopsis: Roger feels as though New Jersey was not prepared yet if the flood gates were in place the magnitude of the damage of the storm would have not been as bad. Mary Jane describes the media coverage as accurate because they came to the source- the people affected.

Keywords: Accurate; Appearnce; Area; Building; Car; Changed; Children; Christie; Cost; Country; Coverage; Devastation; Disaster; Environment; Family; FEMA; Flood gates; Fortunate; Governor; House; Houses; Hurricane Katrina; Insurance companies; Jersey shore; Job; Katrina; Lived; Media; Money; Moved; New Jersey; Plans; Political; Power; Precaution; Prepared; Prepared adequately; President; Property; Rebuild; Reponse; Respond; Sensationalized; Shore; State; Stom; Strong; Taxes; Television; Town; Union Beach; Volunteers; Weeks


36:41 - Normal / legacy of the storm

Play segmentSegment link

Partial Transcript:Right. So, I know that this is a funny question, but do you think that people have returned to normal for you, or is it like a new normal?

Segment Synopsis: Roger and Mary Jane describe how stressful; it is to find places to go after the storm. They also talk about the fact that you can't really be prepared for anything these days and that whatever is meant to happen is going to happen.

Keywords: Advice; Area; Car; Cars; Changed; Community; Devastating; Election; Evacuation; Family; Flood; Governor; Higher ground; House; Hurricane Sandy; Impacting; Important; Legacy; Message; Money; Moore, Oklahoma; Mortgage; New normal; Normal; Oulook; Papers; Prepare; President; Sandy; Small town; Storm; Tornado; Town; Union Beach; Volunteers; Vote; Work


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