Even after her home has been destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, Westfield resident Alicia Weaver is counting her blessings.
Weaver said while she and her family are "still a bit shell-shocked" she is thankful she, her husband, Philip, son, Eli, and two cats are okay, especially considering they were in their home when a tree fell through their master bedroom and bathroom.
"The tree rocked our entire home," Alicia explained Thursday morning. "Every room has structural damage. Water pipes broke upon tree impact and water poured into our kitchen. All our doors and windows are now crooked; floors heaved. Every room has structural cracks and separations from the ceiling. So we knew immediately it was bad."
Despite all that, Alicia is taking comfort in the kindness of friends and family.
"Family and this amazing community of Westfield friends is helping immensely," Alicia said. "'The morning after,' friends and neighbors brought tears to our eyes with their invitations to stay in their homes and help in any way. We are staying at our neighors' home while our dear friend/local realtor, Kim Gibson, with Priudential here in town, is working tirelessly trying to find us a long term place to stay here in Westfield."
Alicia shared what she and her family have done so far to move forward.
"We took pictures as per Westfield's fantastic police department," she said. "Then, we started moving quickly trying to cover every aspect. Rich's Tree Service was here first thing with an amazing crew. Alan Milstein, with his crew, removed the crown of the tree and will return on the seventh with two cranes. Cranes are hard to reserve right now. They will remove the rest of the tree at that time."
Alicia explained she and her husband called their insurance company immediately and have had adjusters out in order to have their claim processed so they can begin to receive funding approval for both their short- and long-term living arrangements.
"People should check with their insurance company," Alicia noted. "Ours has a company that will help find housing but also lets you try to find it yourself considering that housing right now is very difficult to find. We would be at a hotel right now but 'no room at the inn' anywhere."
The Weavers offered this advice to other homeowners in a similar situation:
"Things one should ask their carrier are: amount they have for displacement and loss of use, replacement cost endorsement of contents so your damaged belongings will be replaced at present-day value, and how much they are insured for their actual home," Alicia noted.
She said she has also created a separate folder for everything relating to this event.
"Once the Town Construction Inspector came in with the Fire Chief and 'red tagged' our home, which means our dwelling is unsafe for living, we started to meet with contractors and builders to begin the process because everyone is going to be in demand," she continued.
The Weavers have ordered a dumpster to begin removing debris. They also plan to have their home tarped today. They have asked for donations of plastic bins so they might easily pack up things they will need while they are displaced.
While she said they had cell phones and computers, thanks to her husband, who had a "generator ready to go," Alicia said she does regret not being "more prepared."
"I wished I had packed that emergency bag for my family with an overnight bag for us since we do not have access to our personal belongings as of yet," she said. "But 20/20 hindsight is just that, hindsight. Mostly it feels like we are hurrying to accomplish things very slowly. We are trying to surrender to the fact that this will take a long time and it will be what it will be. We are so lucky to be here and have such amazing people in our lives to help.
"And we are also so heartbroken when we hear of all the devastation throughout New Jersey. My uncle and dear friend lost boats, homes, and lives were not spared. We send our love and prayers to so many who are struggling to make sense of this craziness."