EAST ROCKAWAY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Superstorm Sandy left its mark on children across the Tri-State Area. On Long Island, some flooded-out schools are still closed, and crowded classrooms are the rule in many that have re-opened.
Sophia Swain and her first grade classmates at Centre Avenue School in East Rockaway are sharing traumatic memories of Sandy, but also showing incredible resiliency as they rebound from the emotional toll.
“It washed away our school and it was very sad. The first time I heard it, I started to cry,” the 6-year-old said on Monday.
“This hurricane actually made us bring together, and we made new friends. Sandy made us from sad to happy,” added 6-year-old John Pizzo.
East Rockaway was ravaged. Two of the three public schools were so heavily damaged by raging flood waters, they still have not reopened. Junior and senior high students are being bussed into a neighboring village, but the elementary children, nearly 700 strong, opted to stay together, crowding into the only school that survived.
“We provide structure here for them each and every day. They come in, have the same teachers, they follow the same schedule, just a different building,” East Rockaway Schools Superintendent Dr. Roseanne Melucci told CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan.
The children relish anything familiar because their toys and family possessions are gone.
“That made me sad,” one student said.
“When the hurricane comes, I had to stay up ‘til 10 o’clock,” another said.
“I had to sleep in my mom’s bedroom with her and my daddy, I was in the middle,” another said.
“We had to rip down our floors,” another student said.
“Our children lost everything. They came to school without coats. We were without supplies,” Centre Avenue Elementary Principal Timothy Silk said.
Centre Avenue’s principal said students find it comforting that he is sharing his office with Rhame Elementary principal, Laura Guggino.
“This is where they will heal. We will take care of them when they fall. We take care of them with the emotional Band-Aids and real Band-Aids,” Guggino said.
When asked what the best part of being back in school is, 6-year-old Nicholas Dilapi said, “We’re making new friends.”
The new friends plan to stay bonded, even after repairs are made and all East Rockaways schools reopen.
As for the town’s junior and senior high school, it’s still being sanitized and rebuilt. The work is expected to take months to complete.
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