It took Timothy Hussey nearly a year to rebound after Superstorm Sandy wiped out his french fry stand on the Jersey Shore and left him homeless.
Epitomizing the Garden State's tenacious spirit in the face of the storm's devastation, he had finally clawed his way back, finding a new home and reopening Kupper’s French Fries on the Seaside Park boardwalk. Then a fire struck on Thursday night, destroying his business and leaving him, once again, with nothing.
“All I have is my clothes. Everything is gone,” Hussey told FoxNews.com a day after the fast-moving fired tore across the fabled boardwalk. “The fire started so quick. There was no time.”
“We’ve been through Hell AND High Water."
- Timothy Hussey, owner of Kupper's French Fries, Seaside Park, NJ boardwalk
Hussey had already lost most of the key summer season, spending it repairing his stand and finding an apartment. He had hoped to salvage a few good weekends before closing up for the season and hoped that 2014 brought a new beginning. Now, he feels like he's been put through the ringer and isn't sure what his future holds.
“We’ve been through Hell AND High Water," he said. “Literally. The high water was Sandy and the hell is this fire.”
Hussey's resolve was tested thoroughly after Sandy slammed into the Jersey Shore Oct. 29, 2012, killing more than 100 and leaving millions without power for weeks. His business was wrecked. He was evicted from his second-floor apartment a few months later, when his landlord decided damage to the first floor made the building a total loss. With nowhere to go, Hussey gathered most of his possessions and stored them in the space above his stand and at a friend’s business nearby.
To get by, Hussey stayed with family and friends moving around until he finally found a new apartment this past July. Hussey had finally gotten everything back to normal when the fire struck, destroying more than 50 businesses.
What the storm spared a year ago, the fire took Thursday. Hussey lost everything from childhood mementos to all his credit cards. Even his birth certificate is gone.
The utter destruction of the fire still hasn’t hit Hussey.
“I’m fine emotionally, but I’m not sure how I’m going to feel down the road,” he said. “I’ve been there 17 years."
Gov. Chris Christie said Friday that the fire was 95 percent contained and that state grants and loans could be made available to help businesses with recovery costs not covered by insurance.
“I will not permit all the work we've done over the last 10 months to be diminished or destroyed by what happened last night," Christie vowed.
The fire broke out Thursday afternoon and, driven by strong winds and fueled by the tar roofs of pizza shops and arcades, quickly devoured four blocks of boardwalk. The fire was finally brought to heel late Thursday night when firefighters dismantled a section of the boardwalk to cut off the blaze's fuel supply.
On Friday many firefighter remained on the scene fighting remaining hot spots pouring thousands of gallons of water on the smoldering remnants of the fire.Images from the air showed a once-colorful area reduced to a monochromatic pile of charred dark gray rubble. Among the places wrecked was FunTown Pier, an amusement park that had not yet reopened after being damaged last October by Sandy.
Hussey wondered if his long battle to reopen had been worth it. But he was sure of what he would do next.
“I spoke to my landlord earlier and we’re going to rebuild. We have to rebuild. No matter how long it takes.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.