May 15, 2013 at 2:58 PM ET
While local residents on the Jersey Shore try to put Superstorm Sandy behind them, one local attraction is putting the tempest front and center. Later this summer, the Casino Pier amusement park in Seaside Heights, N.J., will unveil “Super Storm,” a new pendulum ride that promoters hope to open by July 4 as a symbol of the region’s resilience.
“Tornado, Cyclone, these are common names for rides of that genre, so we decided to name it Super Storm,” said park spokeswoman Toby Wolf. “We’re hoping that it’s a symbol that we’re strong in New Jersey and that we’ve worked hard to move forward.”
Both the park and surrounding community could certainly use one as their status has been inextricably linked to one of the most iconic images of Sandy’s path of destruction. During the Oct. 29 storm, the park’s Jet Star roller coaster was pulled out to sea, where it’s remained like an apocalyptic Erector Set just offshore for the last seven months.
On Tuesday, work crews began dismantling Jet Star even as Casino Pier officials were announcing its successor.
“With everything that happened yesterday, it was one of those crazy, whirlwind, mixed-emotions kind of days,” Wolf told NBC News.
Those mixed-emotions extend to the fact that while boardwalks and other tourist attractions along the Jersey Shore are quickly being rebuilt, many residents are still struggling to return to something approaching normal life.
Last month, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie estimated that 39,000 families were still displaced and many neighborhoods look much the same as they did last fall.
“Naming the ride Super Storm is not making light of people who lost their homes,” said Robert Hilton, executive director of the Jersey Shore Convention and Visitors Bureau. “I’ve been right there, digging out houses, looking for pictures and personal belongings. This is the perfect opportunity to create a silver lining out of the storm.”
For Kristin Tweedale, a lifelong New Jerseyan who frequently vacationed in Seaside as a child, the name is fitting and people who might be offended by it are missing the larger point.
“If people find the name 'in bad taste' then they would probably think the exact same thing of vacationing in Seaside,” she said. “Those people who [don’t] give it any more than a passing thought or a quick joke are really conflating the issues that the Shore faces in a post-Sandy world.”
Meanwhile, with the tourist season about to kick off on Memorial Day, the Shore is at what Hilton calls a “pivot point” between dwelling on the past and looking toward the future.
“Basically, you have two choices,” said Hilton. “You can pick up the pieces, brush yourself off and move forward or you can lie down and play dead. But, really, you’re still alive and at some point you’re going to have to get up so you might as well do it sooner rather than later.”
“I think it’s probably the most appropriate name for a ride at the Jersey Shore, Seaside especially,” said Tweedale. "Sure it has a bit of attitude and snark — but that's the Jersey Shore.”
Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him on Twitter.