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Taking Stock Of What Was Lost And Found Post-Sandy

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Taking Stock Of What Was Lost And Found Post-Sandy

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Taking Stock Of What Was Lost And Found Post-Sandy

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

A year ago this week, Hurricane Sandy battered the east coast. When people were finally able to return to their waterlogged homes, many found not just damage but that belongings had simply washed away. And so it is that talk of Sandy one year later often involves lists of property destroyed and heirlooms lost, but also of gains, including friends made and communities strengthened.

Reporter Tracey Samuelson of member station WHYY visited the Jersey Shore and talked with residents there about what they lost and found in the storm.

TRACEY SAMUELSON, BYLINE: When the water came bubbling into Susan Holland's home in Toms River, N.J., she lost all her clothes, two cars, and all the furniture on the bottom floor of her house.

SUSAN HOLLAND: I threw things on my bed, not realizing that your bed becomes a sponge. But just no idea that the water was going to come up that high.

SAMUELSON: She did save the photo albums and her wedding dress. The Hollands stayed with family for a few months and were among the first in their neighborhood to move back home in January. Then in February, Susan's husband died in his sleep.

HOLLAND: I didn't have any neighbors to send my kids to. He'd gone to sleep and when I got into bed and realized something was wrong, there was nowhere for them to go.

SAMUELSON: After he died, she started to miss things she never expected to when they were clearing out the house after the storm.

HOLLAND: I feel like there's a lot of things like t-shirts of his I don't have because that was all thrown away.

SAMUELSON: Sandy and its aftermath took a lot from Susan's family, but it gave a bit back too. Friends pitched in to do work on the house, and they raised more than $40,000 for her from donations and grants.

HOLLAND: My friends used Facebook. They started the Holland Family Fund. And there was a donation from as far away as the U.K.

SAMUELSON: She has no idea how they even heard about her.

HOLLAND: And it made it easier to ask for help. We weren't the kind of people to ask for help.

SAMUELSON: Many shore residents have a similar tally of possessions and emotions lost and found due to the storm. In New Jersey alone, Sandy's price tag is estimated at $40 billion. But many of the things it swept away or deposited can't be quantified. Before the storm, Elizabeth Burke Beaty says her life on Long Beach Island was pretty isolated.

ELIZABETH BURKE BEATY: I had my husband. I had my son. I had my dog and that was pretty much it.

SAMUELSON: So even though Sandy destroyed her family's mobile home, she says she's better off after the storm. She helped organize crews of volunteers to gut houses.

BEATY: Now I have a whole community of friends that I didn't have pre-Sandy. It's given me such faith and hope in people and myself, and it fuels me to keep going.

SAMUELSON: The storm brought people together, cliche as that may sound. But it also brought them face to face with their government in ways they didn't always like.

LAMBROS VLACHAKIS: You know what I gained? I gained a hate for FEMA. I gained a hate for insurance. I will never, ever have flood insurance again.

SAMUELSON: Lambros Vlachakis was insured through the National Flood Insurance Program, which is run by FEMA. He's on his eighth adjuster and is still trying to resolve his claim. In the meantime, he drives each day to the empty gravel lot in Seaside Heights where he used to live and where he's trying to rebuild.

VLACHAKIS: If they tell me I need flood insurance just to live there, I would knock that house down one block at a time and leave it there, just so I don't have to have flood insurance.

SAMUELSON: A year later, these Sandy scorecards, these lists of what the storm brought and took away, are still often recited in the checkout line at the grocery store or town council meetings. No one's list is the same, but the losses tend to outnumber the gains. For NPR News, I'm Tracey Samuelson.

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