Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with James Butler, July 11, 2013

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Interview introduction

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Partial Transcript: Okay, you guys still need some time?

Segment Synopsis: An introduction to the interview with James Butler.

00:00:06 - Brief biography

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Partial Transcript: Um, so the, the neighborhood's here. You, you know your neighbors, uh, you know who they are.

Segment Synopsis: Butler describes his middle class neighborhood of Union Beach, New Jersey. He explains that there was a great amount of contractors in the neighborhood which was beneficial during the recovery process of the storm.

Keywords: Business; Community; Contractors; Crime; Economic; Family; Floors; Houses; Job; Kids; Neighborhood; Neighbors; New Jersey; Schools; Small town; Storm; Town; Union Beach; Wall; Working

GPS: Union Beach, Nj.
Map Coordinates: 40.446403, -74.177787
00:01:43 - First hearing of the storm / expectations

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Partial Transcript: Okay. And we're going to start talking about the storm. When did you first hear the storm was coming?

Segment Synopsis: Butler explains that he expected for his house to receive water since it's so close to the ocean.

Keywords: Beach; Boats; Damage; Evacuate; Expect; Family; First thoughts; Floors; Florida; High tide; House; Houses; Lived; Living; New Jersey; Night; Normal; Perfect storm; Room; Sister; Storm; Town; Union Beach; Water; Wind

00:04:18 - Preparations / availability of supplies

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Partial Transcript: How were--how did you prepare?

Segment Synopsis: Butler talks about how he had to manage his gas trips carefully. He also lists his preparations for the storm.

Keywords: After the storm; Amazing; Availability; Building; Car; Clean; Food; Gas; Gas lines; Help; Highway; House; Keyport; Kitchen; Lost; Mom; News; Night; Power; Precaution; Prepare; Street; Supplies; Town; Union Beach; Water; Windy

GPS: Union Beach, Nj.
Map Coordinates: 40.446403, -74.177787
00:07:54 - Warnings

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Partial Transcript: Do you feel like, um--(coughs)--you received adequate warning that--about the storm and the magnitude of the storm?

Segment Synopsis: Butler talks about how some people did not really heed the warnings that were given. He also describes his role in trying to help convince people to evacuate after receiving the warnings.

Keywords: Adequate; Adequate warning; Cars; Community; Emergency; Evacuate; Flooding; Government; Governor; High tide; House; Power; Prepare; Respond; Response; Safe; Storm; Warning; Warnings; Water

00:10:56 - Day of the storm

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Partial Transcript: Take me through the day of the storm.

Segment Synopsis: Butler talks about warning people to leave their houses and get to safety. He also describes that there was not much rain in his area but there was a lot of wind to make up for it.

Keywords: Before the storm; Cars; Home; House:Hit; Hurricane; Message; Night; Rain; Sound; Storm; Superstorm; Town; Trouble; Water; Wind; Windy; Work

00:12:59 - First contact and thoughts

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Partial Transcript: Okay. Um, who, who did you immediately speak when you arrived around 7 a.m.?

Segment Synopsis: Butler tells about how many houses in his area were washed out by the storm. He also describes his first view of his house after Hurricane Sandy hit.

Keywords: After the storm; Area; Beach; Communities; Daughters; Destroyed; Doors; Evacuate; Facebook; Family; House; Houses; Kids; Lights; Mess; Morning; Quickly; Roadblock; Salvageable; Street; Survived; Town; Union Beach; Wall; Water; Window

GPS: Brook Ave (Union Beach, Nj.)
Map Coordinates: 40.447352, -74.164204
00:16:59 - Responding to the storm

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Partial Transcript: Um, what did you see, and how did you respond?

Segment Synopsis: Butler describes how it felt to know the victims of the damage of Hurricane Sandy personally and the difference between that experience and witnessing the damage of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. He also lists all the acts he did to help those in Union Beach.

Keywords: Area; Devastation; Doors; First thoughts; Gone; Help; Hit; Home; Houses; Katrina; Kids; New Orleans; Phone; Prepared; Respond; Salvaging; Shock; Street; Supplies; TV; Work

GPS: New Orleans, La.
Map Coordinates: 29.949988, -90.046924
00:19:20 - Damages / mood of the community

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Partial Transcript: So the damages that you mainly suffered was your home in Union Beach totally wiped out--

Segment Synopsis: Butler describes the state of confusion the community was in when looking for aid in recovery.

Keywords: AT&T; Attics; Borough Hall; Building; Cell phones; Community; Damages; Evacuate; Furniture; Gone; Home; House; Issue; Lucky; Mood; Moved; Ocean; Pipes; Power; Quickly; Shelters; Shock; Storm; Surge; Union Beach; Water

00:23:56 - Next day / reopening of stores

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Partial Transcript: So explain to me what happened the next day, how people were making it through or making it through with the day-to-day necessities.

Segment Synopsis: Butler describes having to see many people getting first looks at their newly destroyed homes. He also talks about the reopening of stores and getting gas after the storm.

Keywords: Amusement parks; Area; Cook; Cops; Day-to-day; Doors; Evacuate; Gas; Gas lines; Governor; Highway; House; Necessities; Police; Power; Stores; Street; Surge; Town; Weeks; Wind

00:27:55 - Support from organizations

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Partial Transcript: Um, who you begin to look for--look to for support?

Segment Synopsis: Butler describes looking to different sources of aid and how quickly they responded. He also describes feeling like there was not a good source of information given to the people of Union Beach.

Keywords: Blankets; Borough Hall; Church; Communities; Community; Contact; Curfews; Devastation; Doors; FEMA; Facebook; Floors; Friends; Gone; Help; Houses; Information; Insurance companies; Internet; Jackets; Job; Leave; Looting; Organization; Protocols; Quickly; Red Cross; Response; Responses; Salvation army; Storm; Street; Struggle; Support; Town; Trees; Water; Weeks; Window

00:31:50 - Working with the community / community coping

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Partial Transcript: Who, who did you work closely with?

Segment Synopsis: Butler describes that there was a disconnect of people who had supplies to provide and those who needed those supplies. He also mentions that people were not coping but were managing the situation by picking up and leaving.

Keywords: Beach; Beds; Borough Hall; Church; Community; Coping; Family; Flooding; Food; Fortunate; Friends; Furniture; Help; Houses; Kids; Kitchen; Living room; Lucky; Mattresses; Normal; Rebuild; Respect; School; Stories; Supplies; Town; Union Beach; Volunteers; Work

00:35:30 - Responses / National Guard / governmental aid

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Partial Transcript: Um, I noticed you mentioned there were a lot of positive responses. Did you witness any negative responses even?

Segment Synopsis: Butler mentions the looting that was happening after the storm. He also talks about having a sense of security because of the presence of the National Guard in his neighborhood.

Keywords: Borough Hall; Car; Church; Community; Donation; Emergency; FEMA; Fire department; Help; Hit; Home; House; Looting; Message; National Guard; New Jersey; Police; Rebuild; Responses; Safe; Security; Services; State; Town; Trees; Union Beach; Work

00:40:01 - Contributing to the community through the Hope Tree

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Partial Transcript: Um, so how else did you contribute to helping out--

Segment Synopsis: Butler describes finding the first Christmas tree which came to be known as the Hope Tree. Families began to place ornaments with their family names and addresses which gained Facebook users' attention through the creation of a page for it. He also describes how people were sending money to those affected by Hurricane Sandy because of the Hope Tree and seeking more information to help out.

Keywords: Car; Christmas; Community; Contact; Contribute; Facebook; Family; Floors; Friends; Gone; Helping; Hope; Hope Tree; House; Information; Message; New Jersey; News; Pictures; Rebuild; Sandy; Symbol; Target; Trees; Union Beach; Utah; Weeks

00:47:06 - Preparations and improvements of New Jersey

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Partial Transcript: Um, how do you feel about the responses that were, that were--that you received in the town?

Segment Synopsis: Butler talks about the establishing of the flood protection plans and how it could have helped in this situation. He also mentions that he thinks communication could be improved on for the next natural disaster to better prepare New Jersey.

Keywords: Area; Army; Boardwalk; Borough Hall; Build; Climate; Communities; Community; Dunes; Facebook; Flood; Help; Houses; Keansburg; Keyport; Lucky; Money; New Jersey; Ocean; Plans; Port Monmouth; Prepared; Prepared adequately; Promote; Protection; Response; Responses; Seaside; Shore; State; Stories; Support; Town; Transportation; Union Beach; Water; Weeks

00:51:17 - Mother Nature's role in Hurricane Sandy's occurrence

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Partial Transcript: Um, do you think that there was anyone to blame for the storm, or do you think it was just like Mother Nature taking its toll or like freak occurrence?

Segment Synopsis: Butler believes that even though they did their best in attempting to recover after the hurricane, citizens of that area don't really have a plan to follow when emergency situations like this one happen. He also states that the media coverage was more sensationalized than accurate.

Keywords: Accurate; Aid; Area; Bayshore; Blame; Build; Businesses; Coverage; Damage; Disaster; Doors; FEMA; Florida; Freak occurrence; Home; Homeowner; Houses; Hurricane; Job; Media; Money; Mother Nature; Natural disaster; Oklahoma; Organization; Red Cross; Sandy Hook; Seasons; Sensationalized; Storm; Texas; Town; Union Beach; Warning; Warnings; Water; Wildwood; Work

00:55:21 - Governor and president's appearance / response from rest of the country

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Partial Transcript: What do you feel about Chris Christie and Obama's coming to the town...

Segment Synopsis: Butler gives his opinions on Chris Christie and Barack Obama's visits to New Jersey after the storm and whether his views on them changed. He talks about the response from agencies like FEMA after Sandy as compared to other disasters like Katrina.

Keywords: Area; Barack Obama; Cell phones; Chris Christie; Community; Country; Disaster; Donations; FEMA; Family; Governor; Governor Christie; Help; Homeowners; House; Houses; Hurricane Katrina; Lived; Money; Opinion; Paperwork; Politics; President Obama; Response; Storm; Union Beach; Water

01:00:58 - Environmental view

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Partial Transcript: How has this shaped your environmental views?

Segment Synopsis: Butler describes that the climate has changed and people should be aware of it. He also states that the response of the town after Hurricane Sandy was a lot faster than previous storms.

Keywords: Area; Bayshore; Beach; Building; Buildings; Change; Climate; Contribute; Dunes; Economy; Election; Environment; Environmental issues; Help; Home; Improvement; Involved; Kids; Mother Nature; Moved; New normal; Normal; Opportunity; Plan; Precautions; Protection; Rebuilding; Responses; Storm; Union Beach

GPS: Union Beach, Nj.
Map Coordinates: 40.446403, -74.177787
01:05:22 - Daily life

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Partial Transcript: Um, do you have any changes to your daily life?

Segment Synopsis: Butler talks about still checking the Hope Tree for messages from those affected by Hurricane Sandy. He also mentions the reality of knowing not everyone who has once lived there is going to rebuild their houses and continue living there.

Keywords: Daily life; Donations; Family; Friends; Home; Hope Tree; House; Involved; Lived; Messages; Mortgage; Payments; Pictures; Positive; Social media; Town; Trees; Union Beach

GPS: Union Beach, Nj.
Map Coordinates: 40.446403, -74.177787
01:09:15 - Changes in outlook / legacy of the storm

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Partial Transcript: Um, do you have any changes to the outlook on the community, on the world as a whole?

Segment Synopsis: Butler says his biggest lesson from the storm is that so many people desire to help others. Hope is a key thing to hold onto when going through a situation like this one, according to Butler.

Keywords: Advice; Changed; Children; Community; Contribute; Country; Disaster; Family; Help; Home; Hope; Houses; Kids; Legacy; Lost; Message; Money; Mortgage; New Jersey; Outlook; Response; Stories; Storm; Town; Tragedy; Union Beach; World

GPS: Union Beach, Nj.
Map Coordinates: 40.446403, -74.177787