Long Beach marks first anniversary of superstorm Sandy

Long Beach volunteer firefighter and resident Lawrence Mazel Long Beach volunteer firefighter and resident Lawrence Mazel comforts his wife, Candace, as they watch a short film documenting superstorm Sandy during a ceremony commemorating the anniversary of the storm at Long Beach City Hall. (Oct. 26, 2013) Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

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More than 1,000 residents, emergency responders and government officials came to Long Beach Saturday to commemorate the anniversary of superstorm Sandy, which slammed the oceanfront city and its iconic boardwalk.

The two-hour ceremony was held in front of Long Beach City Hall, which served as a hub during emergency efforts immediately after the storm. Saturday's event focused on the city's recovery, newly completed 2.2-mile boardwalk and work left to be done in a community that suffered an estimated $200 million in damage.

"Here in the city, we had the ingredients for total chaos," City Manager Jack Schnirman said from a stage packed with politicians. "No power, no water, no sewer, no heat, no cell service, landlines out, no traffic and a gas shortage. Homes were naked and vulnerable . . . We declared a curfew and made the tough decision to enact virtual martial law in Long Beach, and it was successful."

The ceremony also featured "Surge: A City Recovers," a 15-minute documentary by local filmmakers that showcased scenes and stories of survival and provided a retrospective of restoration efforts. Tuesday will mark exactly one year after Sandy's local landfall.

"Not one generation's lives, but several generations' lives were wiped out by God's hand," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who joined city council members, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach), Legis. Denise Ford (D-Long Beach) and County Comptroller George Maragos. "But even in those dark days, I don't think we ever lost faith that this community would be back."

Long Beach native Amy Sue McPartlan, 61, held a sign with the words "Thank You" scribbled on top of a Long Beach Barrier Island map. McPartlan, whose two-floor home was heavily damaged and took almost four months to rebuild, wanted to acknowledge elected officials, first responders, utility workers and volunteers who helped the city recover.

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"It was heartbreaking to see working-class people lose essential things," said McPartlan, a Wantagh High School art teacher, who teared up as she watched the film. "All the help that came from all over the country made me feel very proud to be a Long Beach citizen."Barbara Vahey, 51, who has lived in Island Park for 14 years with her husband, lived for seven months in Long Beach after the storm destroyed their one-story home, which they have yet to repair.

"A year later and my story is like everyone else's," said Vahey, a Long Beach Middle School secretary. "We are trying to rebuild."

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