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Alisa Brennan (left) and Julia Heffernan take a photo of themselves in front of the Jet Star roller coaster, which fell into the ocean in Seaside Heights, N.J. during Hurricane Sandy.
Wayne Parry/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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BY WAYNE PARRY
SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J.--The utterly mundane task of bringing a garbage can back from the curb put a broad grin on Guy Mazzanti's face Monday.
Seaside Heights' retired police commissioner had been living with a daughter in Maryland since Superstorm Sandy pummeled the shore in October. The storm created memorable scenes of destruction like the roller coaster that plunged off a collapsing amusement pier and still sits in the ocean a few blocks from his home.
Mazzanti was one of a handful of residents who took advantage of long-sought permission to move back home permanently. Monday--nine weeks after the storm made landfall--was the first day residents could begin so-called "re-population" plans in Seaside Heights, as well as parts of Toms River and Brick.
Even now, Mazzanti isn't in his permanent home. That building took on more than 2 feet of water and still needs major repairs. But he rented a condominium and on Monday he greeted friends he hadn't seen for more than two months.
"It's paradise, being home," Mazzanti said. "I still can't believe how 24 hours can make such a difference in our lives," he said, referring to the storm.
Tony Vaz, a Seaside Heights councilman, also has not been able to return to his house. He, too, rented a condo until repairs can be made to his home.
"The feeling of being back home, in our own town, that's a feeling we all missed," Vaz said. "You can't imagine how good it feels."
Wearing a fleece New York Jets top, Vaz joked about having withstood two disasters last fall: the storm and the beleaguered football team's season. He's looking forward to normalcy in a neighborhood where there are still very few people.
"I'm looking forward to the 7-Eleven reopening, so when you need cigarettes or a cup of coffee, you can just walk around the corner and get it," he said. "Little things like that are part of everyday life in a town."
Al Poane, a retired police officer, has spent his entire life in Seaside Heights, except for the past nine weeks.
"It feels great to be back in town with people I grew up with," he said. "I just missed this town so much."