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Residents Of Storm Fire-Devastated Breezy Point Gather For Sunday Mass

Breezy Point Mass

Storm-ravaged Breezy Point residents gather for mass. (Credit: CBS 2)

Superstorm Sandy

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Superstorm Sandy has tested the faith of many, but Sunday mass was packed in Breezy Point, Queens – one of the areas hit hardest by the storm.

As CBS 2’s Drew Levinson reported, hundreds filled the pews at St. Thomas More Church, 204-25 Rockaway Point Blvd., for Sunday mass led by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzo.

With no power, the sanctuary in Breezy Point was dark and cold. Still, there was sense of warmth, generated from being together after enduring the worst week in the community’s history.

“We are here as a family. This is a family. We unite here,” said church member Bernadette O’Brien.

The nation watched as Hurricane Sandy’s 80 mph winds fanned flames and gutted 111 homes. What wasn’t destroyed by fire was heavily damaged by floodwaters and wind.

Kathy Willis came to St. Thomas More for solace and to find peace. She lost her home and just about everything inside.

“There is no context,” Willis said. “I have to just put one foot in front of the other. I don’t know how to do it. I didn’t read the book on this. I’ve just got to keep going. I know that, because I have two kids. That’s the only reason I keep going.”

The one constant the congregation has is faith – faith that they will rebuild; faith that they will come back. The one thing the hope is that they will also have the patience.

The fire in Breezy Point broke out at the height of Superstorm Sandy Sunday night. It took almost 200 firefighters to battle the blaze and the elements, CBS 2’s Cindy Hsu reported.

“We lost blocks of homes,” FDNY Commissioner Sal Cassano said Tuesday. “The conditions that firefighters faced when they got here last night were really some of the worst conditions you could try to fight a fire in.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg compared the damage to a war zone.

“The area was completely leveled; chimneys and foundations were left of many of these homes,” Bloomberg said Tuesday. “It’s very sad they lost their homes. The good news is there’s no fatalities, thank God.”

The home of U.S. Rep. Bob Turner (R-Queens) was among those destroyed. He said in a statement that, along with many other Breezy Point residents, he had lost his home. He expressed gratitude that he and his family were safe after the destructive storm.

The western Rockaway Peninsula has seen more than its share of scares and tragedies over the years.

On Nov. 12, 2001, just two months after the 9/11 attacks, American Airlines Flight 587 crashed in the center of Belle Harbor, neighboring Breezy Point. All 260 people on board were killed, along with five people on the ground.

And just last month, a tornado touched down in Breezy Point, sucking up water, sand and small pieces of buildings. In the storm’s wake, the community of seaside bungalows was littered with broken flower pots, knocked-down fences and smashed windows.

Are you a person of faith, and have you attended services following the storm? Leave your comments below…