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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – President Barack Obama said there is still a lot of work to be done on the long road to recovery from Superstorm Sandy as he toured heavily damaged areas of Staten Island and other communities on Thursday.
The president met with affected families, first responders and others who have been dealing with the aftermath of the devastating storm.
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Speaking in New Dorp on Staten Island, Obama said there is “still a lot of clean up to do.” He said the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be there to help with the immediate needs of those displaced for as long as it takes.
He also promised to stick with New Yorkers struggling during the storm’s aftermath ”until the rebuilding is complete.”
“We are now still in a process of recovery,” Obama said. “People still need emergency help. They still need heat, they still need power, they still need food, they still need shelter.”
The president began his visit with an aerial tour of the damage in Far Rockaway and Breezy Point. He then headed to a federal emergency response center at New Dorp High School, where he spoke with relief work volunteers and residents.
He said he met privately with Damien and Glenda Moore, whose two young sons, 2-year-old Brendan and 4-year-old Connor, died after being swept away during the storm.
“I had the opportunity to give some hugs and communicate thoughts and prayers to the Moore family,” Obama said. “I expressed to them as a father, as a parent, my heartbreak over what they went through.”
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More than half of the city’s storm-related deaths happened on Staten Island and many whose homes were damaged or destroyed have said it could take two years or longer to rebuild.
“Nothing left. I lost everything I own – clothes, everything’s gone,” said New Dorp resident John Klacher. ”My whole life.”
“Living out of my car and on the road,” added Midland Beach resident Joseph Amorello. “It’s been too cold to stay in the house.”
There isn’t much left of the home Dominic and Sheila Traina had for 43 years. They both spent time with the president on Thursday.
Dominic Traina said he told the president “we need some help down here.” Sheila Traina also delivered letters to the president from her granddaughters.
The president, in turn, wrote a thank you on the spot, reading “Maggie and Kate, thanks for the letters — I’m going to help!”
“He was very sincere. He feels the pain…it’s good, going to be a big help,” Dominic Traina told CBS 2′s Tony Aiello.
But the president’s time on the ground was limited and many who wanted to meet him could not, including a business owner who tried to deliver her own written plea.
“We do not have flood insurance! We lost everything! Inventory, machines, computers. Mr. President help! Help us rebuild!” said Angela Fugel, of A & J Uniform Supply.
While the destruction on Staten Island is unavoidable, so are the countless U.S. flags placed among the debris and devastation – a symbol of hope and recovery.
“We are New Yorkers, Mr. President,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday. “We are tough, we are resilient and we will overcome and be better for it.”
Obama echoed that sentiment.
“I’m very proud of you New York,” he said. “You bounce back just as America always bounces back. The same is going to be true this time around.”
The president visited the Jersey shore last month where he met with residents and offered condolences and words of encouragement.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Cuomo were among local leaders who joined the president Thursday. Cuomo is seeking $30 billion of federal aid to rebuild damaged areas.
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