In the wake of the devastation from Hurricane Sandy, the wife of New Jersey governor Chris Christie believes the state can take strength from the determination of her husband.
Mary Pat Christie spoke with Jenna Bush Hager about the hard road ahead for the Garden State as they visited the coastal town of storm-ravaged Sea Bright, N.J., in a segment that aired on TODAY Thursday.
As they toured the area, Christie helped console Conner and Karen Trezza, the owners of a local pizzeria that was badly damaged by the hurricane.
“You really want to completely focus on the people and there's no guide,’’ Christie said. “I've never done this before and neither has my husband. But I think that we're all kind of inspired by my husband, and I think we kind of all are ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work."
The Christies’ hometown of Mendham, N.J., was also affected by the storm. The governor’s home was without power for eight days, but the family, which includes the couple’s four children, considered that a minor nuisance compared to the damage suffered by the coastal towns.
"I feel like most New Jerseyians we probably played more games than we know what to do with,’’ Christie said. “Catchphrase and Scattergories became a highlight of our day, but I think we were just really thinking about the people that were suffering so much more than us.”
Christie has seen her husband return home from long, emotionally draining days. He has earned praise from many for his work with President Obama to facilitate storm relief and also scorn from Republicans who feel he cost Mitt Romney the election for heaping praise on Obama for his response to the relief efforts.
“I think that after the 16-, 18-hour days that my husband comes home, not only is he exhausted physically but it definitely is mentally draining,’’ she said. “To (have to) come and hug people who have lost their life savings and their world.’’
Married to the governor for 26 years, Mary Pat has seen him spring into action in a crisis.
"I've seen him in management situations before that are challenging, and he kind of gets a group of people around the table and is very good at listening but then quickly deciding and delegating jobs,’’ she said.
The Jersey Shore has been an integral part of the family’s life, as they made a yearly summer trip to Casino Pier in Seaside Heights, which was destroyed by the storm.
“Casino Pier, that was our big night out with the children,’’ she said. “I mean, my children, it sounds almost, you know, just small, (but) that's their childhood.”
Much like Seaside Heights, Sea Bright is a regular summer destination for tourists and beach-goers. The town has a long road ahead to rebuild, but is ready for the challenge.
“We will rebuild this town,’’ Conner Trezza told NBC News. “Bigger and better and stronger.’’