NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – After superstorm Sandy, New Dorp High School on Staten Island became a place of salvation and on Thursday, the students shared their stories with the nation’s top education official.

WCBS 880’s Sean Adams On The Story

Some spoke of having to retreat to rooftops or of tying themselves to sturdy parts of their houses so they wouldn’t be swept away.

Teachers went door-to-door and helped students like sophomore Francesca Santiangelo.

“Giving us mattresses and gloves and hats and scarves and it just, it was amazing,” she told WCBS 880 reporter Sean Adams. “So heartwarming. It’s just like the whole big happy family.”

Michael Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers, had 12 feet of water in his house and New Dorp students came to his aid.

“And they came with dry socks and, let me tell you, after standing in mud for six hours and your feet are soaking wet, dry socks are the greatest gift anyone can give you at that moment,” Mulgrew said.

Students also shared other tales of survival – swimming to safety, escaping in a kayak.

Plus, they spoke of the struggles of trying to focus and learn when they don’t even have a house to call home.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has promised to speak with friends at FEMA.

“There’s a number of things that we need to do to, you know, to cut through bureaucracy, to cut through the red tape and to get the help to folks that need it,” he said Thursday. “The President‘s been unequivocal on that and we got to make sure that his words are translated into reality.”

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