"You don't lose your memories. It's time to make new ones," Riley said.
Heavy equipment, including a gigantic drill and a pile-driving machine, were brought onto the sand in the south end of town Friday morning. Workers quickly began drilling holes in the sand and pounding wooden pilings into them, shaking the ground for blocks around.
The work marked the beginning of a $3.6 million contract the borough awarded to rebuild the boardwalk. Mayor William Akers said the initial work - restoring the boardwalk so it can be walked on safely - should be done by May 10.
Railings, lighting, and ramps will be part of a second contract that has yet to be awarded. The project is also likely to include a protective seawall, and cost between $6 million and $7 million, the mayor said.
"It's a huge day for us, a new beginning for the town," he said.
The town's Jet Star roller coaster plunged off an amusement pier during the storm, coming to rest in the ocean as an enduring image of Sandy. Plans still have not been finalized on how or when to remove it.
The entire length of the mile-long boardwalk is being rebuilt. It is the most famous of the numerous boardwalks destroyed by Sandy, known for its pizza and ice cream stands, its games of chance, arcades and bars.
Michael Loundy, a real estate agent who rents out the house where the Jersey Shore cast lived while filming, said he could not overestimate the importance of getting the boardwalk back. (The cast's house was not seriously damaged in the storm.)
He said potential tourists want to know if Seaside Heights will be ready in time for vacation season.
"We absolutely will be ready."