News / USA

Devastated by Sandy, NY School Reopens

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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs