News / USA

Devastated by Sandy, NY School Reopens

Devastated by Sandy, NY School Reopensi
|| 0:00:00
X
December 19, 2012 6:35 PM
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

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

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead 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.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid