Candles and flashlights lit up the shore along the East Coast Tuesday evening as survivors of Sandy paid their respects to what was lost when the storm roared ashore one year ago.
To mark the anniversary, residents of coastal neighborhoods in New York and New Jersey that suffered some of the worst flooding honored the day in ways both public and private.
In Long Beach on Long Island, residents placed hundreds of lanterns in a fountain to symbolically "light the way home" for neighbors who are still displaced. Along the Jersey Shore, storm victims shined flashlights in a symbolic triumph over the darkness that Sandy brought. On Staten Island, residents lit candles by the stretch of waterfront closest to their homes in a "Light the Shore" vigil. Similar vigils were also held in parts of Brooklyn.
It was a time of healing for many who suffered in Sandy's wake. But the day also brought back frightening memories for people who survived the waves and wind that lashed their homes.
"People are terrified of the ocean, even though we've lived here all our lives," said Lily Corcoran, who lives in the Queens neighborhood of Belle Harbor. "We're all terrified of the water and what it can do."
Sandy made landfall at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 29, 2012, sending floodwaters pouring across the densely populated barrier islands of Long Island and the Jersey shore. In New York City the storm surge hit nearly 14 feet, swamping the city's subway and commuter tunnels and knocking out power to the southern third of Manhattan.
The storm was blamed for at least 181 deaths in the U.S. — including 68 in New York and 71 in New Jersey — and property damages estimated at $65 billion.
In Rockaway's Breezy Point, where nearly 130 homes burned to the ground during the storm, residents were planting sea grass on sand dunes. Small businesses on Staten Island were hosting a block party to celebrate their recovery and drum up business.
President Barack Obama said in a statement Tuesday that the last year has served as a reminder of the "strength and resilience of the American people." He said strangers helped one another and entire communities came together to heal.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo kicked off what was billed as a "Sandy Resiliency Tour" in lower Manhattan at the National Museum of the American Indian, which was temporarily shut down last year by flooding and power outages. He said the city and state are now better equipped to withstand extreme weather.
"Sometimes it takes a crisis to appreciate a new reality," he said.
Mayor Bloomberg toured Crescent Beach on Staten Island, where a 10-foot storm surge destroyed homes. A 10-foot-high berm is being built by the Army Corps of Engineers to protect the shore form future storms.
Bloomberg thanked workers for their service and was told the project, which is being refunded by FEMA, would be done by year's end.
Debbie Fortier, of Brick, N.J., drove to Seaside Park on Tuesday hoping to speak with Gov. Chris Christie, who was visiting several Sandy-ravaged towns. Walking out arm-in-arm with him after he had finished speaking at the firehouse, she told Christie how her family's house had to be torn down and how her family has yet to receive any aid.
"We're physically, emotionally and spiritually just drained," she said after Christie left. "Does anybody hear us?"
She said she is on a waiting list "for everything" and is particularly bitter that her family started to repair their storm-damaged house, only to have inspectors later tell them it was too badly damaged to fix. They then had to knock it down and move into a friend's basement.
"How long am I supposed to wait?" she asked. "It's been a year. You can't just not move forward."
Information on help for storm victims:
- FEMA: 800-621-3362, disasterassistance.gov
- New York: stormrecovery.nyc.gov, 855-NYS-SANDY
- New Jersey: nj.gov/gorr
- Connecticut: ct.gov/ctrecovers, 866-272-1976