Say what you want about Governor Chris Christie, but he’s always been a frontlines kind of guy, especially in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy here in New Jersey.
On September 12, 2012, Ocean County New Jersey, still reeling heavily from the destruction of Superstorm Sandy one year earlier, was hit with another disaster, the burning and total destruction of the boardwalk in Seaside Park.
One year prior, Sandy destroyed much of the boardwalk in neighboring Seaside Heights, where the iconic photo of the Jet Star rollercoaster in the Atlantic Ocean was broadcast worldwide. A few blocks south, in Seaside Park, similar destruction destroyed the Fun Town amusement pier.
As the small borough was still digging out and rebuilding, a fire cut the tourism season, which the local economy depends on, short.
Within an hour of the fire being reported to Governor Christie’s office, he was on scene to support the local community, working the front lines as he had done many times prior since Sandy wreaked havoc in our community.
I should know, I accompanied him on this as the only member of the public press given access to him that day prior to the press conference. I took about 250 photos that day. However, the major media outlets only wanted a handful of those photos from me for publication.
I made the entire collection available to the global media. There were no takers, until the Daily Mirror in the United Kingdom spotted something I didn’t. In one photo, Christie’s aide Bridget Anne Kelly was seen texting. It turns out later, according to the Bergen Record, that I happened to have captured a moment in time where Kelly was texting one of her sidekicks in the Bridgegate scandal. The Bergen Record matched the timestamp of the photo to documents released by the state that outlined the Bridgegate timeline.
Four months after our boardwalk burned to the ground, I started receiving phone calls, I noticed the sale of those photos on Getty Images spiked overnight. I found it odd that they would now be interested in photos of the governor from the fire months earlier. I still didn’t quite understand until the next morning when I saw my photos of the governor and Kelly all over the morning news, on every network and in virtually every newspaper worldwide.
Finally, somebody took notice of the photos I took that day, but to me, it was for all the wrong reasons.
The press sees what they want to see. They tell us what they want us to know. It’s what makes us different from our peers.
They didn’t see the governor who came to the aide of the people who had already been beaten down worse than any others in the history of our state. No, they didn’t tell that story. They didn’t see the compassion and genuine interest the governor had that day in comforting local residents and reassuring local officials that his office was there for them. All of them.
What they saw was a scandal involving traffic lanes on the George Washington Bridge, more than an hour-and-a-half and a world away from New Jersey’s ground zero.
The governor did come through with most of his promises to help Seaside Heights and Seaside Park rebuild. In fact, the summer of 2015, just five years after Hurricane Sandy and four years after the total destruction of the boardwalk here, the Seasides had one of their best tourism years on record, thanks in part to the programs offered by Governor Chris Christie.
Some people don’t like the governor. He’s brash. He’s up front. Some argue, he’s a bully, but one thing nobody can take away is that when Ocean County needed him, he was here for us when we needed a governor.
Here are some photos describing the story the media did not report on regarding my photo set.