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We don’t think about those invisible scars | Opinion

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By Jacki Tiger-Williams

Sometimes something rips through your world and leaves your life in pieces. You’re left standing there as tattered fragments of who you used to be dance to the ground around you. It might be a car accident or a death. This time, it was a tornado.

Tornadoes aren’t a thing here in New Jersey. Not the real ones anyway. Sure, we go to our basements every now and then to hunker down in a windy storm for a few minutes, but that’s it. And rarely, ever so rarely, a weak F1 pops in to say hello. It’s big news.

We swap pictures of the tree that landed on the car of the neighbor two blocks over that you don’t really know. We ask if your street lost power. We talk about how the wind howled from the security of our basements — lots of broken branches, some downed power lines, a smattering of smashed windshields. Big, exciting stuff for the relatively quiet Garden State.

On Sept. 1, 2021, we expected more of the same. An F3 decided to skip and hop over our land, picking up our pieces at random and throwing them back down again. Some of us came out to the tattered fragments drifting and scattered.

A few homes were reduced to rubble, others missing an entire wall, allowing us a peek into their private space with their bedrooms and bathroom on display. One home was just gone. Forests that grew over decades swept to the ground in seconds like so many pick-up sticks released from a child’s fist.

Now, three seasons later, most homes look like home again. Driving along, car windows halfway down on an unusually warm 60-plus day. The music is on loud, singing along, and then there it is.

Remnants. It may be a tarped, empty house still longing for its people. Or a few lone tree trunks standing at forlorn attention – no branches, tops raggedy from where they snapped. Or the field of fallen trees that used to be a lush green forest that is now eerily smoking land as the clean-up crew burns the hundreds of downed trees that snapped like matchsticks.

No conclusive evidence of additional tornadoes

On Sept. 1, 2021, an F3 decided to skip and hop over our land, picking up our pieces at random and throwing them back down again. Some of us came out to the tattered fragments drifting and scattered, the writer says. A few homes were reduced to rubble, others missing an entire wall, allowing us a peek into their private space with their bedrooms and bathroom on display. Lori M. Nichols | NJ Advance MediaLori M. Nichols | NJ Advance Med

This earth is scarred, a lingering wound in the land that is otherwise mundanely beautiful in South Jersey. It’s a reminder of that night – the bad thing that didn’t happen to us but could have happened to us.

I think of the people I cross in my days. We look regular, unafflicted for the most part, and don’t give each other much of a second glance beyond holding the door for one another or a quick hello.

But the truth is, we all have our scars. Most are carefully concealed, camouflaged by our everyday small talk and to-do lists. We don’t know who is barely keeping it together. Or struggling to make ends meet. Or grieving. Or sifting through their tattered fragments among the rubble. Or whose land is on fire. Or who had to choose to burn it all down to let new life grow.

We hold each other to standards and set expectations and get impatient with those who let us down. We forget. We overlook what we know — that everybody has wounds in varying stages of healing. We don’t think about those invisible scars.

Our trauma doesn’t come with a sling or cast to remind others to be gentle with us. If only we could look at people and see their hidden suffering like we see that tornado-battered land. That broken tree trunk stripped of all its branches. That field on fire. There would be no failure to remember. Think of the grace we could give one another. The forgiveness we could extend. The kindness we could show. Think of enduring kindness.

Jacki Tiger-Williams resides in Pitman with her husband and two kids and teaches fourth grade in Washington Township.

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Why this key Jets player is glad a rival cut him

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Jets receiver/returner Braxton Berrios didn’t have to wait long to learn how hard it is to keep a roster spot in the NFL.

Berrios, a 2018 Patriots sixth-round pick, spent his rookie season on injured reserve and New England cut him in 2019 before he ever played a snap.

But the Berrios isn’t bitter about his brief time with a team that is now his biggest rival.

“Really, I feel like I got a PhD in football (in New England),” Berrios said on the “Adam Schefter Podcast. “It didn’t work out for whatever reasons. And looking back it’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”

The Jets claimed Berrios soon after he was cut and he has found a way to contribute ever since: Berrios has been the backup slot receiver since 2020 and set a career high in catches (46) and receiving yards (431) last year. But his big breakout came on special teams, where he became one of the league’s best returners on the way to a first-team, All-Pro selection.

“I kept going, obviously, and found ways to be productive,” Berrios said. “Obviously, in the return game was the first way. And then I really, really wanted to make sure I was seen as a receiver as well, and really over the last two years I’ve gotten a lot more of those opportunities. Then you marry those opportunities with now being named the first-team All-Pro last year as a kick returner: it’s finally full circle, it’s maybe starting to work out a little bit.”

Berrios admitted that he felt he had his “back up against the wall” on the Patriots’ talented roster. He certainly doesn’t have to worry about the Jets cutting him as he enters his fourth season with the team: Berrios signed a two-year, $12 million earlier this year.

But even if Berrios isn’t mad at the Patriots, there is one thing that should have the Jets extremely motivated when they play their rival this fall: the Jets haven’t won a game against New England since 2015.

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Andy Vasquez may be reached at avasquez@njadvancemedia.com.



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Wildwoods Are Next in Line for Beach Replenishment

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Most New Jersey beach towns should be jealous of Wildwood. The city has the widest beach on the Jersey Shore, stretching 1,500 feet from boardwalk to surf in some places.

But Wildwood has its headaches, too. Some beachgoers complain the sandy expanse requires too long a schlep to the water’s edge. The beach also collects pools of water, which can breed insects and become health hazards, and the sand drifting down from the north tends to clog storm drainage pipes. Plus, there’s all that beach to clean.

Since 2014, Wildwood has gladly allowed the neighboring borough of North Wildwood to borrow truckloads of its sand every winter—including some that clogs those drainage pipes.

[RELATED10 Years After Hurricane Sandy: What’s Next for the Jersey Shore?]

Now the city of Wildwood is poised to sign the state-aid agreement required for a 50-year partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers and the state Department of Environmental Protection for beach replenishment and maintenance. North Wildwood has already signed. Once the deal is in place, the Army Corps can proceed with its Wildwoods project, probably starting in fall 2023, pending easements from private property owners at various locations along the beach.

The centerpiece of the project will be a series of dunes totaling 25,000 linear feet (about 4.7 miles) from North Wildwood to Wildwood City and south to Wildwood Crest and Diamond Beach. (Wildwood Crest and Lower Township, which includes Diamond Beach, also have to sign their own state-aid agreements.) To build the dunes, sand will be taken from a substantial swath of Wildwood’s beach all the way south to Wildwood Crest.

North Wildwood has reason to seek the Army Corps’ help; its sand perpetually drifts south each winter, leaving beachfront properties vulnerable. For Wildwood, the Army Corps should be able to solve several problems, explains Carl Groon, a projects coordinator for the city.

For one thing, the width of the beach will be reduced by several hundred feet at some points, meaning shorter walks from boardwalk to water and less beach to clean. Second, grading the beach with a greater slope from the new dunes to the surf, should help eliminate the pooling problem. Finally, in the event of extreme storms, the dunes should mitigate flooding.

Groon says Wildwood’s new dunes will range in height from 14 to 16 feet. They will be built between the city’s five piers, each at a different distance from the boardwalk, depending on existing structures and other factors.

The dunes will create some obstacles for Wildwood spectator activities. “If they shrink our beach, we will have less beach to use for events,” acknowledges Groon. However, he adds, “I think it’s well within our ability to make it all work.”

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Sleepy Hallow Involved In Chair-Throwing Brawl In NJ Restaurant

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