It may still look dark and dismal in Sea Bright when night falls on the downtown strip of the small Hurricane Sandy-ravaged town, but there's a bright spirit that prevails.
Of the some 30 businesses by the ocean, there are only four open: Dunkin' Donuts, Bain's Hardware, Harry's Lobster House and the new Ama Ristorante at Driftwood Beach Club, which, a bit apart from the downtown strip, was the first to re-open.
And not too many residents have yet settled back into their homes.
"It's like a ghost town here," said Claudia Cantor, who lives and works in town, but was displaced until recently and is still jobless. "People are trickling back in, but there's something very sad about it all. It's quiet and just about the only lights at night are the street lights, but there's an uplifting undercurrent."
Part of that spirit-boosting tenor in town is the drive to help. Sea Bright Rising, founded by Woody's Oceanf Grille owner Chris Wood, has become the premier fundraising source for townies and others affected by Sandy nearby.
The organization has raised more than half a million dollars and counting to date. Wood keeps people apprised, mostly via the nonprofit's Facebook page and website.
In his latest entry, he was thrilled with the newest of fundraising sources. Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School student Charlotte Nagy — a Rumson teen who documented Sandy and got Train lead singer Pat Monahan to come to Sea Bright to sing and lift spirits — has produced a new video using Train's rendition of John Lennon's Imagine as background music.
The rendition, now on iTunes, is also the latest source of funding for Sea Bright Rising. All proceeds from iTunes uploads will go from Train to the cause.
"Awesome," Wood said. "Thanks Charlotte and Train for being there for Sea Bright Rising. We're getting things done......and we'll continue to do so. Thanks."
The video has evoked melancholy, yet comfort for some residents who are still displaced.
Several took a moment to comment:
"Thanks Charlotte. We are still not home but are working very hard to get back to Island View. I can't wait to sleep in my bed the blow up mattress is not cutting it keep up the good work psi proud of my Sea Bright community," said Mary Sanborn.
"Awesome ... so emotional for me. I am still staying strong, although it is still hard as I walk into my unfinished home," Lisa Wheeler commented.
During the daytime, Cantor said, all you can hear is the whir of construction tools and trucks — a sign that Sea Bright is rising. At night, silence blankets the area filled with empty businesses, but bright street lights.
Check out the video, as posted on YouTube, above.