News / USA

Devastated by Sandy, NY School Reopens

Devastated by Sandy, NY School Reopensi
|| 0:00:00
X
December 19, 2012
Hurricane Sandy was one of the worst storms in New York City history, ravaging entire seaside neighborhoods with flood waters and leaving thousands homeless or displaced. Finding the holiday spirit among the wreckage has been a challenge for many, but it just became a little easier in the Rockaway section of Queens, where a small Catholic school finally reopened. VOA’s Adam Phillips visited St. Camillus School and filed this report on the “new normal” within its walls.

Devastated by Sandy, NY School Reopens

TEXT SIZE - +
Adam Phillips
— Six weeks after Hurricane Sandy slammed the American northeastern coastline, and two weeks before Christmas, many people remain homeless or displaced in New York City’s Rockaway Queens district.

A significant community victory, however, was achieved Monday when Saint Camillus Catholic school reopened to students after severe flooding and rot nearly destroyed it.  

Some 200 students were back saying their regular morning prayers at Saint Camillus, their first full day at school since Oct. 29, when the ocean, a short city block away, flooded their building while also damaging or destroying nearby homes.

While she's thankful to another school for housing them and their teachers while repairs were being made, Sister Agnes, who runs the school, is grateful to see the students back at Saint Camillus.
Sister Agnes welcomes students back to Saint Camillus Catholic school. The building reopened this week after being damaged by Superstorm Sandy. (VOA/A. Phillips)Sister Agnes welcomes students back to Saint Camillus Catholic school. The building reopened this week after being damaged by Superstorm Sandy. (VOA/A. Phillips)
x
Sister Agnes welcomes students back to Saint Camillus Catholic school. The building reopened this week after being damaged by Superstorm Sandy. (VOA/A. Phillips)
Sister Agnes welcomes students back to Saint Camillus Catholic school. The building reopened this week after being damaged by Superstorm Sandy. (VOA/A. Phillips)

“We know it’s been a long struggle for you," she tells the students. "But here we are back home and that’s the important part, that we’re all together. We’re back home and we are ready to start anew.”

In a ceremony last week, Sister Agnes distributed cut-out paper stars to students to tape onto school walls anywhere they wished.     

“Between now and Christmas, this building should be filled with stars, a symbol of light. We all lost light. We know what it’s like to be without light," Sister Agnes says. "But now we have light in this building and we need the light that you’re going to put up with the stars, a symbol of the light of Jesus Christ.”

Some parts of the school remain damaged beyond repair. Janine Cerrone, a veteran teacher whose husband and son nearly drowned when their basement flooded, now teaches kindergarten in the school library. 

“See that building that has beige stone?" she says, pointing out of the window. "That’s our building; that’s our room. It’s like a cottage and it’s completely gutted. We are going to be displaced for a very long time but young children are adaptable, and they seem to be fine. So we’ll do the best we can.”

Luna is one of her kindergartners who lost her home as a result of the storm. Luna's mother, Eileen, enourages her daughter to stay positive.

“I remind her ‘You have the blessing of having life. You are safe. Everything is okay. Everybody that you love is okay," she says. "She lost her toys. She lost her bed. But she still has her school and her friends and her close family."
Students at Saint Camillus Catholic school enjoy lunch together in the school building damaged after Superstorm Sandy. (VOA/A. Phillips)Students at Saint Camillus Catholic school enjoy lunch together in the school building damaged after Superstorm Sandy. (VOA/A. Phillips)
x
Students at Saint Camillus Catholic school enjoy lunch together in the school building damaged after Superstorm Sandy. (VOA/A. Phillips)
Students at Saint Camillus Catholic school enjoy lunch together in the school building damaged after Superstorm Sandy. (VOA/A. Phillips)
Three seventh graders who are glad to be back at Saint Camillus remain without heat and hot water at home. Two say Superstorm Sandy has tested their faith and that their Christmas spirit has soured. 

“Yes, it’s going to be harder," says one girl. "This year really is not Christmas for us.

Her friend looks for meaning in it all.

"I think this is a lesson for us, maybe open our ears more, to stop the violence and everything," he says. "Maybe we could just have peace. So I think this hurricane was supposed to teach us a lesson. ”

For school secretary Kerry Montero, Sandy’s message is clearest in the many acts of kindness it continues to inspire. 

“A little boy comes in on Friday with a Christmas gift for myself and the principal and his teacher, and among these other things that are going on this is what this little boy, when he stops in the store sees wants to do," she says. "It’s touching, the outpouring of help we’ve received from everyone. We’ve had people from Connecticut, California, Brooklyn, all over the place, coming and helping us. And it's bittersweet because I know all the children are not back with us. It’s emotional.”   

Daunting challenges remain at Saint Camillus as they do throughout Rockaway Queens and other seaside New York neighborhoods. 

Yet as one visitor to the school said, “Mother Nature is powerful, but so is the human spirit.”

You May Like

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid