Dozens gathered Thursday night in Lindenhurst to mark the third anniversary of superstorm Sandy at an event celebrating those who recovered and recognizing victims still struggling to rebuild their homes and lives.
The Shore Road Park event brought out a range of attendees, from residents who live nearby and were directly impacted by the storm to those who volunteered their time in the days and months after Sandy to offer food, clothing and emotional support to residents in a state of shock and despair.
"The storm affected us in ways that we could have never ever thought of three years ago," said Michele Insinga, executive director of Sandy nonprofit Adopt-A-House, which was one of the sponsors of the event.
She said the gathering was a way to celebrate successes and to acknowledge the ongoing work to rebuild.
"We really wanted to come out and support one another," she said.
The event, which was co-sponsored by Lindenhurst Village and Suffolk County Legis. Kevin McCaffrey, (R-Lindenhurst), featured food, a raffle and live music by local band Electric Jam.
"I'd like to be here next year saying everybody's back home, mission accomplished," McCaffrey told the crowd.
But until then, he said, the community will continue to fight for federal funds to repair, rebuild and elevate storm victims' homes.
"Because the fight is not over and the fight will not be over until everyone here is back in their home."
Officials estimate that the storm damaged or destroyed 100,000 housing units on Long Island, causing millions of dollars in damage.
The site of the event, Shore Road Park, was itself under 4 feet of water from Sandy, with a tidal surge that wiped out its electrical system and ruined its athletic fields.
Despite the destruction, the park became a gathering point for those impacted by Sandy, anchored by Camp Bulldog, a grassroots volunteer effort that remained at the park for six months after the storm, providing a warm tent, hot food, clothing and other assistance to weary and cold residents.
"It's like opening up an old wound," camp manager Andrea Curran, of West Islip, said of the reunion with camp patrons. "You don't forget the faces, the sorrow, the hopelessness that they felt. But now, she said, "the faces are happier."
Beth Henry, who runs the nonprofit Sandy Support Massapequa Style, said this year's anniversary had a different feel to it.
"The events the past two years have been somber and reflective," she said. "This year is more of a gathering. . . . It's a day for us all to get together and enjoy each other's company."
Still, Insinga said, for many of those impacted by Sandy, "this week, for the rest of their lives, is going to be bad."
Some couldn't bring themselves to attend the event, she said, and some there still felt an overwhelming sadness.
"I almost didn't come out tonight," said Patricia Parez, whose home has been repaired and elevated. "I feel sad. But wanted to be here for the people who couldn't be here."