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1 year on, US storm survivors to light up shore

October 29, 2013

NEW YORK (AP) — Candles and flashlights will light up the shore along the East Coast as survivors of Superstorm Sandy’s devastation pay their respects to what was lost when the storm roared ashore one year ago.

To mark Tuesday’s anniversary, residents of coastal neighborhoods in New York and New Jersey that suffered some of the worst flooding are honoring that terrible day in ways both public and private. In New York City the storm surge hit nearly 14 feet (4.2 meters), swamping the city’s subway and commuter tunnels and knocking out power to a third of Manhattan.

The storm was blamed for at least 181 deaths in the U.S. — including 68 in New York and 71 in New Jersey — and property damages estimated at $65 billion. Another 72 deaths were reported in the Caribbean and one in Canada.

On New York City’s Staten Island, residents will light candles by the stretch of waterfront closest to their homes at 7:45 p.m. local time (2345 GMT) in a “Light the Shore” vigil. Along the Jersey Shore, site of some of the storm’s worst destruction, people plan to shine flashlights in a symbolic triumph over the darkness that Sandy brought.

It’s a time of healing for many who suffered in Sandy’s wake. But the day also brings back frightening memories for people who survived the waves and wind that lashed their homes.

“People are terrified of the ocean, even though we’ve lived here all our lives,” said Lily Corcoran, who lives in the New York City coastal neighborhood of Belle Harbor. “We’re all terrified of the water and what it can do.”

Sandy made landfall at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 29, 2012, sending floodwaters pouring across the densely populated barrier islands of Long Island and the Jersey shore.

In Rockaway’s Breezy Point, where nearly 130 homes burned to the ground during the storm, residents will plant sea grass on sand dunes. Small businesses on Staten Island are hosting a block party to celebrate their recovery and drum up business.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered flags on state buildings to be flown at half-staff on Tuesday. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to tour some of the hardest-hit areas in New York City. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie planned Sandy recovery events across the state.

President Barack Obama said in a statement Tuesday that the last year has served as a reminder of the “strength and resilience of the American people.” He said strangers helped each other and entire communities came together to heal.

Obama said the federal government has provided billions of dollars of assistance to hundreds of thousands of people and small business-owners through direct aid, grants and loans.

In Staten Island, where Sandy roared ashore and killed 23 people, there are still plenty of reminders of the storm. Wallboard and debris are piled on front lawns. Bungalows are covered in plywood. “Restricted Use” signs are plastered on many front doors.

Resident Jean Laurie is about to break ground on a new home that will be constructed on stilts 13 feet (four meters) in the air. Propped up on the grass on her tiny plot of land, mounted on a piece of poster board, are photographs taken of the devastated neighborhood after the storm.

“This is like our archives,” Laurie said. “To let people know that this happened. It was here. And we survived.”

Two people, James Rossi and Ella Norris, drowned here during the storm. Residents recently mounted a stone memorial in the grass near the creek to honor them.

“Jimmy walked his dog here every day,” Rossi’s cousin, Diane Hague, said as she knelt down before it silently on a recent afternoon. “It’s fitting that we have something so beautiful to represent the people that we lost.”

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