Images of the damage left from Hurricane Sandy decorated the conference room in the Hall of Records on Wednesday, as the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders sat down with Shigeyuki Hiroki, ambassador and consulate general of Japan in New York.
After hearing of the damage suffered by New Jersey residents, Hiroki began visiting with counties to hear how they each fared during the storm. During his tour, he made a stop in Freehold and sat down with the Board of Chosen Freeholders and members of the Monmouth County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) to hear how Monmouth County handled Hurricane Sandy.
“This storm has drastically changed the landscape of the New Jersey coast,” said Mike Oppegaard, Director of Monmouth County OEM. “3,100 homes that we know of have been affected to the point that their owners will not be able to move back in.
As no stranger to natural disasters, Hiroki explained to the freeholders and members of the OEM how sympathetic he was.
“The Japanese community is very sympathetic, which is why we would like to donate $500,000 to victims,” Hiroki said. “It is very important for us to be united. After we experienced our earthquake and tsunami we know what it is like to go through a disaster. In time of need, we have to be united.”
While Hiroki’s visit was not a lengthy one, he and the Freeholders exchanged stories of their experiences with natural disasters. A common theme among the stories was friendship and patience.
“We went through a similar thing and we are still rebuilding. Everyone should understand that rebuilding takes a long time,” said Hiroki. “I am still amazed though to see how young volunteers have helped old folks, we are connected and it is important we all work together. This was a tragedy, but through it we realized friendship.”