"We’re a tough group of people. We will rebuild. We will get better and we’ll be even tougher. America couldn’t take New Jersey toughness before this. After this? We’re going to be hell on wheels everybody!"
NJ Governor Chris Christie held another press conference Monday afternoon, providing new information as well as encouraging words for those devastated by Hurricane Sandy.
Christie began the presser by speaking on "returning to a new normal."
The way we define progress is, can you put gas in your car? Are your kids able to go back to school? Are the roads clear and accessible? Do you have drinking water? Do you have power to your house? Those are the ways we’re going to define the new normal. I think that’s as close to normal as we can get at the moment.
Christie also had an important message for people with homes on the barrier islands:
I know you’re anxious to get out there and see your homes. I don’t want you to go out there yet because it’s not safe. We’re letting some people, a limited amount, onto Long Beach Island today. We’ll let some more onto Long Beach Island tomorrow. It’s what’s called a grab and go. Go look at your house, grab things out of there that you absolutely need and go. We’re not quite ready to do that yet on the barrier islands from Point Pleasant down to Seaside Heights. A good part of Route 35 is gone. We’re working around the clock, to rebuild and clear Route 35 as much as possible.
Christie provided updates on the recovery efforts:
At the height of the storm, we had 2.76 million households out of power. As of this morning at 7 a.m., that number is down to 765,000. It doesn’t mean damn thing to you unless you’r e one of the two people who didn’t have power.
Having two million more people back on power doesn’t mean a damn to you unless you’re one of those two million people.
I think there will be a good section of Monmouth County turned back on today.
We want as many children to go back to school as soon as possible. Today schools are open in 255 districts, about 40%.
All focus is on Route 35. The Department of Transportation’s priority, now that other roads have been cleared, is also bringing public transportation back online to the extent possible considering the damage to our rail system.
Christie also urged affected residents to contact FEMA.
We can’t help you until you register. 1-800-621-FEMA. In 24-48 hours they will be out to see your home to evaluate how much you’ve lost and to immediately give you rental assistance to be able to go out and get a warm place to live until you figure out how to fix your house up. But you can’t get any of that until you call.
Christie recommended that anyone who lost their jobs because of the storm to file for unemployment insurance at NJUIFile.net.
Christie also plugged the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund, created by the First Lady.
“We’ve already gotten millions of dollars in contributions into the fund over the last couple of days. By the way, that’s not Mrs. Obama that set that up, that’s Mrs. Christie. The First Lady of New Jersey,” said Christie to much laughter and applause. “I wanted to make sure I was clear on that. I have to go home tonight. We’ll make sure that money is distributed to families that are in need.”
Christie also revealed he spoke with Bruce Springsteen earlier in the day while on the phone with President Barack Obama. Christie also claimed he cried at home after meeting Springsteen at Friday's benefit concert for Sandy. Christie says he's a huge fan of the Boss and has gone to hundreds of his concerts.
Christie ended the press conference with a message of hope and reassurance:
The challenges here are extraordinary. I was up in Middle Town before I came here. I met a little girl named Ginger who had lost her home. I’ve hugged a lot of crying adults over the last week and I’m okay with that. I just have a harder time dealing with crying children, children who look scared. It reminded me that for kids across New Jersey, I want to promise you that there is nothing to be scared of. The adults are here and we’re in charge. We’re going to make sure first and foremost we’ll keep you safe.
There is no reason to avoid crying. It’s a sad situation. A lot of people have lost a lot. Sorrow is part of what we’re doing here. But we can’t allow that sorrow to replace our resilience as a state. We’re a tough group of people. We will rebuild. We will get better and we’ll be even tougher. America couldn’t take New Jersey toughness before this. After this? We’re going to be hell on wheels everybody!