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Staten Islanders Talk Tales of Loss and Compassion

By Zachary Stieber
Epoch Times Staff
Created: December 14, 2012 Last Updated: December 19, 2012
Related articles: United States » New York City
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Dennis Walcott, chancellor of the NYC Department of Education, shakes hands on Dec. 13 with Matthew McComb, a student at New Dorp High School, after hearing his story about how McComb and his mom were affected by Hurricane Sandy .(Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)

Dennis Walcott, chancellor of the NYC Department of Education, shakes hands on Dec. 13 with Matthew McComb, a student at New Dorp High School, after hearing his story about how McComb and his mom were affected by Hurricane Sandy .(Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)

NEW YORK—Many people cried as about 20 students, teachers, and parents told harrowing tales of escape, endurance, loss, and recovery during and after Hurricane Sandy struck Staten Island.

Tenth-grader Jennifer Mahon described how her parents had left their home to drive their cars to higher ground, expecting the water would only rise a couple of feet.

“While that happened it rose to 10 feet in a matter of about 5 minutes,” she said.

Mahon and her two siblings rushed to bring up whatever valuables they could carry from the basement while their parents struggled to escape the surging water. Her parents ended up at the door of a complete stranger’s house, where they stayed the night. Meanwhile, Mahon and her siblings climbed onto the roof as water continued rising. They tied themselves to the toilet so they wouldn’t blow away.


This has been a horrible situation, but there’s been so much good and so many good people, –Michelle McComb, parent

In a telephone conversation with her dad, the young Mahon was told to tie herself and her sibling to something, or if the water got too high, to go onto the roof.

Arne Duncan, U.S. secretary of education, shakes hands with Francesca Santangelo, a student at New Dorp High School whose life was effected by the hurricane on Dec. 13 in Staten Island. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)

Arne Duncan, U.S. secretary of education, shakes hands with Francesca Santangelo, a student at New Dorp High School whose life was effected by the hurricane on Dec. 13 in Staten Island. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)

The group gathered at Staten Island’s New Dorp High School Thursday to share their stories with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, president of the city’s teacher union, Michael Mulgrew, and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.

About half of the deaths caused by the storm, and a fair number of the city’s decimated buildings, were on Staten Island, a borough of New York City located southwest of Manhattan.

“This has been a difficult time for so many of us,” said Principal Deirdre DeAngelis. There are people who have not been able to return to their homes; others still do not have heat, she said.

Amanda Delapena, the student body vice president at New Dorp High School, gets emotional on Dec. 13 as she retells her story about being at home when the hurricane hit and losing one of her dogs in the process. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)

Amanda Delapena, the student body vice president at New Dorp High School, gets emotional on Dec. 13 as she retells her story about being at home when the hurricane hit and losing one of her dogs in the process. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)

From the stories it was clear that almost all who had gathered were impacted in one way or another by the storm. Some suffered losses and those who didn’t, helped.

“Just because nothing happened to my house doesn’t mean I can just sit back and watch it on TV,” said Peter LaMarca, a physical education teacher at New Dorp. “We made it a point to get out there and try to help, whatever little bit we could do.”

LaMarca said he took his children with him to show them the reality of what had happened.

Compassion is being shown by everyone now, he told the group, “but are you still going to be compassionate later?” We can’t forget what happened after a few months pass by, he said.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan,, Deirdre DeAngelis, principal of New Dorp High School, and Dennis Walcott, chancellor of the NYC Department of Education, listen to a student's story of how a neighbor saved her and her brother when Hurricane Sandy hit Staten Island. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan,, Deirdre DeAngelis, principal of New Dorp High School, and Dennis Walcott, chancellor of the NYC Department of Education, listen to a student's story of how a neighbor saved her and her brother when Hurricane Sandy hit Staten Island. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)

The school was a place for the community to gather after the storm and access supplies and help. People volunteered on Thanksgiving to make dinner for 650 families. Also, multiple students said teachers had taken them out clothes shopping to replace those that had been lost. One mom, Michelle McComb, said in tears that the school gave her son Matthew a mattress after their basement flooded.

“This has been a horrible situation, but there’s been so much good and so many good people,” she said.

Others described losses such as comic books worth $70,000, one or all a family’s vehicles, and entire homes. Those who lost much still expressed how positive things had come out of the suffering.

Francesca Santangelo, a sophomore at the New Dorp High School, on Dec. 13 tells an emotional story about how she almost lost her brother when Hurricane Sandy hit New York City and how her mother saved him. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)

Francesca Santangelo, a sophomore at the New Dorp High School, on Dec. 13 tells an emotional story about how she almost lost her brother when Hurricane Sandy hit New York City and how her mother saved him. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)

Students Christina Awada and Matthew McComb said that in different ways empathy from the school and their teachers, and going back to classes helped them gradually get back into a normal routine.

Nicole Stone, a 12th-grader taking classes in preparation for becoming a teacher, said she was greatly impacted by a guidance counselor who gave her a nail file, other “girl necessities,” and winter boots.

Stone now wants to impact others in the same way. “After this experience, I changed my mind [about becoming a teacher],” she said. “What the guidance counselor has done for me, I want to do that for somebody else.”

Students at the New Dorp High School in Staten Island, remain optimistic as they support each other in dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy on Dec. 13. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)

Students at the New Dorp High School in Staten Island, remain optimistic as they support each other in dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy on Dec. 13. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)

 

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