Highlands N.J. Comes Together, Where Sandy Destroyed 80% Of Homes

HIGHLANDS, NJ - NOVEMBER 01:  Eric Lenz helps clean out a friend's trailer after it was destroyed by Superstorm Sandy on Nove
HIGHLANDS, NJ - NOVEMBER 01: Eric Lenz helps clean out a friend's trailer after it was destroyed by Superstorm Sandy on November 1, 2012 in Highlands, New Jersey. Superstorm Sandy, which has left millions without power or water, continues to affect business and daily life throughout much of the eastern seaboard. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Highlands, N.J., a small fishing town, is starting to piece back together its tight-knit community after being dealt a huge blow by Superstorm Sandy.

Twelve to 17-foot surges of water flooded and damaged 1,200 of 1,500 downtown homes in the town, Mayor Frank Nolan told

Not only did the storm level the seaside town's homes, it also severely damaged municipality buildings and destroyed 14 downtown restaurants, according to the Asbury Park Press. The town’s 9/11 memorial survived but its surrounding docks did not, according to An emergency shelter was set up at Henry Hudson High School, the local high school, according to the news outlet.

The storm-ravaged town has a big job ahead. From local businesses to veterans to kids, volunteers from all over the area have stepped in to do home repairs, clean up the city and distribute supplies.

“It’s going to be a one- to two-year process, but we’re going to rebuild and we’ll make Highlands better than ever,” town Mayor Frank Nolan told residents as reported by the Asbury Park Press. “As far as I’m concerned, this is a bad day in our history and now it’s time for a new beginning.”

On Veterans Day, Nov. 11., the town took a break from from cleanup efforts to host “Hope for Highlands” -- a daylong celebration, reported.

Gil Benjamin who lost his business, Beacon by the Bay, helped supply the meat for the barbeque on Sunday. "We supply most if the businesses in the area (with meat products). We are just giving back. It's all about survival now. The restaurants are coming back." Benjamin told

Carla Cefalo-Braswell, president of the Highlands Business Partnership spoke at the event. Citing the thousands of homeless residents in Highlands she told "We will not let that stop us. We will come back stronger than ever."



Highlands N.J., After Sandy