Remarks of Mayor Kennedy O’Brien, January 1, 2013
Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for joining us here today.
We welcome the New Year 2013, in fervent hope that it will be a much better one than 2012, which brought with it so many challenges and tragedies. We pray that 2013 will be a year of growth, rebuilding, healing, and peace of mind and heart.
Perhaps most difficult to understand is the unfathomable horror of the shootings at Sandy Hook School in Connecticut. I am sure I speak for everyone when I say that our thoughts and hearts go out to the families of all those affected. We share their grief and pray that they will, over time, somehow find some measure of peace, and the strength to go on in the face of such unimaginable loss.
Throughout the country countless families have been hit with job loss, facing the fears of all that comes with that, the resulting stress and pressure, the loss of their sense of security, and changing their way of life. We wish for only good things and better times for them as they struggle to attain normalcy once more.
Super Storm Sandy came in October, and Sayreville was particularly seriously affected. This once-in- 100-year-storm raged, affecting the homes of several hundred of our families to varying degrees, some to utter devastation. That day, and in the weeks following, I spent my days with our police, first responders, and volunteers, going throughout our Borough to homes, shelters, churches, and relief centers. By telephone, radio, and going door-to-door, I did all in my power to see that our residents were kept updated with the latest information available to me, and I have been humbly gratified by your expressions of appreciation.
Accompanying the Governor, Lieutenant Governor (who lost her own home), and relief services representatives, I met more and more of you who were faced with heartbreaking loss. Through it all, one thing consistently shone through: differences were put aside and forgotten as everyone came together as a community to help friends and neighbors in their time of need. Indeed, agents from Catholic Charities told me they have rarely seen a community as cohesive as Sayreville. This willingness to pull together is something which defines who and what we are, as a community and as Americans.
I would like to thank Barry Eck, our Emergency Management Coordinator, for his constant planning and drills, his Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), and all the members of the Emergency Management Teams, who prepare for those things we hope will never come. Their training paid off as they executed their plans effectively for the Borough. My gratitude goes also to all our local heroes, namely our First Responders – police, fire, first aid, our professional Borough employees, and all our citizens who joined in and did all they could to help in any way. George Gawron, who was just sworn in as Fire Chief, was a shining example of selflessness as, knowing that his own home had been lost, went on in his duty as Fireman, rescuing people whose lives were in danger in their swiftly flooding homes. You are truly an inspiration, George.
The Senior Center and its staff operated as an emergency shelter and was immediately ready to comfort, house, and feed displaced families—200 people the first night. Local churches, especially Father Thomas Ryan of Our Lady of Victories, who had called even before the storm to offer the parking lot for cars in flood prone areas, who also provided the first relief center for donations of food and clothing for impacted residents; and Father Ken Murphy of St. Stan’s, who put together the first fundraiser dinner. You all responded with support, volunteering your time and generosity. I am proud and grateful to be the Mayor of a community whose concern for their fellow residents is so inspiring.
I want to especially thank the Spezzi family for their quiet, but ever present generosity to our community in countless ways. Several days after the storm I received a call from Mayor John McCormac of Woodbridge, who asked how he could help. My response was that we needed men and machines. That Sunday he sent 50 machines, trucks, and front loaders, along with the men to operate them. The O’Neill family, who are developing The Point at Sayreville, also called, asking how they could help. Again I said men & machines, and they made all the arrangements to supply us with as many as we needed to address the necessary tasks in the aftermath of the storm. We couldn’t have done it without Mayor McCormac and the O’Neill family. Very special thanks to Jim Gillette, who may be Sayreville’s biggest supporter and quietest philanthropist, who donated over 30,000 square feet of space in which to operate an expanded relief center when the collections became too overwhelming for the space at OLV.
High school students, including football players and cheerleaders, came out and offered assistance to homeowners. Mike Di Risi, of the Sayrewoods Bible Church, arranged for more than 21 tractor trailers of much-needed food and cleaning supplies, and hundreds of volunteers from the Carolinas to do rip-outs and mud-outs at no charge to homeowners.
And in the aftermath, and still reeling from all this devastation, our young high school football players went on to win the state championship for the 3rd year in a row. Our impressive Leprechaun Midget Cheerleaders went on to compete in the Pop Warner National Cheer & Dance Competition at Disney World, against the top teams in the country. Their outstanding performance earned them a 5th place trophy. Warmest congratulations to all of them.
As we pulled together for the benefit of friends and neighbors, let us keep the spirit of cooperation, unity, and bipartisanship alive as we move forward to meet the challenges of 2013.