Debby’s Story

As a single mother, one of the highlights in my life was being able to buy my own home for my boys and me. I bought my home in Manville, New Jersey, January 2020. The realtor listing indicated that my home was never flooded. The morning of September 1, 2021, my life was changed when Hurricane Ida pummeled the area. Unlike most of my neighbors, who were aware of the dangers of living in Manville and the possibility of flooding, I was not.

I woke up the morning of September 1, 2021, to hearing noises. I opened my blinds and to my surprise, saw that the cars in the driveway were under water. I quickly ran to wake my son. I then opened the basement door and was met with the unbelievable sight of nothing but brown water. Less than 2 minutes later, water started coming into the first floor. My home is a one level house with an attic space and a basement. 

I lost everything in the basement, everything on the first floor living space, and 2 cars. I stayed in a hotel for about 2 weeks but had to move out quickly upon learning that my insurance would not be covering my stay as I did not have “Loss of Use of Premises” on my policy. I had to pay out-of-pocket for the 2 weeks we had already stayed. I also quickly found out that my flood insurance did not have “Content Replacement” and I would not be covered for our personal belongings lost. To add insult to injury, I practically begged FEMA for some assistance, but to no avail. I produced all documentation requested and for some reason, I was not approved. I was never given a proper explanation for why I wasn’t approved.

My closest family member lived approximately 1 hour away from Manville. Luckily, my 2 boys and I were welcomed into their home. I now must pay rent on top of continuing to pay my mortgage. I also must buy food more frequently because we did not have space to store many refrigerated or perishable items. This all while I was dealing with the insurance company and trying to find a reputable contractor who did not see this as a get rich scheme for themselves. The stress was overwhelming and at times I felt like I was losing my sanity.

I anxiously waited 2 years and counting (like most of us who live here in Manville) for help through the HARP Program as promised to us by the State. The State’s decision not to allow us into the HARP Program and to not help us elevate our homes here in Manville is devastating. I love living here in Manville and I am not interested in moving to another community. I don’t have the money to move either. Because of this decision I have no idea what comes next.

Fast forward my house is not what it used to be. I am back in my home, but only after dealing with the contractor from hell and fighting tooth and nail through our broken disaster recovery system. My home certainly has a different feel, I have a feeling of anxiety & PTSD when it rains.  

I am truly grateful for this platform to share the stories of survivors of this process and to assist those in need of information and resources.

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