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 On The Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime bombardment, VOA correspondent finds More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid