Sandy victims seek refuge in the Tennessee Valley - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Sandy victims seek refuge in the Tennessee Valley

Posted: Updated:

MCMINN COUNTY, TN. (WRCB) -- The Zinzi family is from northern New Jersey, and while most of the post-Hurricane Sandy focus has been on the southern part of the state they didn't escape damage.

"To bring it up now, it's actually bringing a tear to my eyes," says Judy Zinzi, the family's matriarch.

They've called Union Beach, New Jersey home for nearly a decade. They rode out Sandy, battling quickly rising water in their home which peaked about waist-high on Judy and her husband, Mike.

"We had to go to the second level of the home and just pray," says Judy. "We went up there and we prayed for the best."

She and the kids got there unharmed, as did Mike eventually. But there's something else on his mind and walking through the water is difficult at best.

"I actually swam out to the shed to get a broom to start pushing the water out," explains Mike.

The kids were a little scared, but seven year old Ryan was looking out more for his father.

"I was worried about dad when he was downstairs," says Ryan.

The water recedes during the cold, restless night, but this is little relief after the wreckage seen outside the next morning.

"We just shook out heads..we were all in shock at that point. We couldn't believe what just happened actually happened," recalls Judy.

The best way they find to describe their community is using the familiar "war zone" comparison. With not much they could do up north, the Zinzis go to Athens, Tennessee about a week after the storm strikes. They stay with Judy's mother and grandparents who have lived here for several years. They used to live near the battered north Jersey town from which Judy and family fled, and emotions ran high seeing they were all okay.

"The first thing I did was grab and hug and kiss each one of them as fast as I could," says Karen Martinez, Judy's mom.

There's no comfort like the company of family and community. Several churches in Athens have donated clothing and other items to the Zinzis, for which they are eternally grateful. And although precious items can't be recovered, they still have each other.

"We lost all out things, yes, but we are here today and I'm able to talk to you," says Judy.

"We're grateful to have our lives. It could have been a lot worse," says Mike.

The Zinzis plan to stay in Tennessee for about two more weeks until their home is repaired. Meanwhile Judy, Mike, Ryan, along with nine year old Emily and 11 year old Tim, will make the best use of their time with their extended family.

Powered by Frankly