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One year after Sandy: reflection and rebuilding

Some victims still putting their lives back in order

Staten Island residents along the borough’s south shore  commemorated Hurricane Sandy’s one-year anniversary.

MIKE SEGAR /Reuters

Staten Island residents along the borough’s south shore commemorated Hurricane Sandy’s one-year anniversary.

NEW YORK — The anniversary of Hurricane Sandy was a day of reflection for many — a time to ponder still-missed loved ones who died when coastal communities were hit by an unprecedented surge of seawater and a chance to take stock of how far recovery efforts have come.

And for some taking part in those rebuilding efforts, it was just another day to keep working in hopes of getting homes repaired and people’s lives back in order.

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Sandy came ashore 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 rail tunnels and knocking out power to the southern third of Manhattan.

The storm was blamed for at least 182 deaths in the United States — including 68 in New York and 71 in New Jersey — and property damage estimated at $65 billion.

A group of volunteers in neon orange T-shirts was busy at work outside a Freeport, Long Island, home on Tuesday afternoon, cutting pieces of tile and molding on power saws in the driveway and garage of the split-level ranch they were helping repair.

The volunteers are part of the Samaritan’s Purse organization, a charitable group founded by the Rev. Franklin Graham that helps with disaster relief throughout the country.

Samaritan’s Purse supervisor Kevin Vallas said volunteers have been on Long Island since the days immediately following Sandy. He said the group has rebuilt four homes and assisted with cleaning out and repairs on dozens of others, both in New York and New Jersey.

‘‘I get my rewards in heaven. I’m a Christian,’’ explained David Ray, a married father of two from Chillicothe, Ohio. ‘‘We’re commanded to be the hands and feet of Jesus.”

Beatrice Spagnuolo was one of 23 people on Staten Island who died when Hurricane Sandy struck a year ago.

The 79-year-old woman was killed when her Midland Beach home flooded.

On Tuesday, her son Vincent Spagnuolo joined about 200 others who marched on a Midland Beach boardwalk to honor the memory of those who died on Staten Island.

As bagpipers played ‘‘Amazing Grace,’’ Spagnuolo said he still hadn’t gotten over his mother’s death. Spagnuolo’s own Staten Island home was also destroyed when Sandy struck.

Myra Camacho’s home in the Rockaways still has no electricity. She spent nearly two months after Sandy trying to survive in her frigid, powerless home with her boyfriend, Walter Negron.

Their luck might be about to change. The couple spent Tuesday morning with an inspector from a nonprofit housing group, who told them he could help with the restoration. He estimated it would cost $15,000. ‘‘He said, ‘Don’t worry about it. We’re going to take care of it,’’’ Camacho said. ‘‘I don’t know. We’ve heard things like this before. I’m hopeful.’’

When Sandy darkened much of the city, some New Yorkers were only hours old. Others weren’t even born.

On Tuesday, babies filled a Manhattan hospital room to celebrate their first birthdays — and their survival. Their parents and hospital staff lighted candles atop cupcakes and sang, ‘‘Happy birthday, dear babies.’’

Visiting a flood-damaged firehouse in Seaside Park, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said Tuesday was a day to remember volunteers and first responders who risked their lives to save others.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo visited the National Museum of the American Indian in lower Manhattan, which was temporarily shut down last year by flooding and power outages.

Cuomo recalled the ‘‘feeling of powerlessness’’ seeing the southern tip of Manhattan submerged in water.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City stopped by Staten Island, Coney Island, and the Rockaways, where he thanked and chatted with workers.

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