Once a lively gathering place for residents, the Bay Room at the Babylon Beach House assisted living facility now sits empty of life.
The room with the expansive windows facing the Great South Bay hosted bingo games and the annual senior prom where residents danced across the floor in their best outfits.
Now, two weeks after Sandy barreled through the building, the Bay Room's dance floor is a palette of caked dirt, glass shards and wooden splinters. Its only occupants: warped file cabinets and overflowing trash bins. Despite the devastation, owner Scott Lockwood is vowing to reopen within four months.
The Beach House's 50 residents were evacuated before the storm and are spread out in seven facilities. Lockwood has spent the past two weeks gutting the lower part of the building, which was flooded by more than 3 feet of water.
"Virtually everything in the building was destroyed," he said, estimating at least $1 million in damages. The water pushed dressers a half-mile away, he said, and deposited trees inside the building. Fish, crabs and seaweed were found throughout the 31 rooms.
"The hardest part was throwing out people's personal possessions," Lockwood said.
He and a crew have worked practically nonstop to rip out drywall, rugs and everything else that got wet. Office files air out on the floor while soaked financial documents hang like drying clothes from string draped in rows across rooms. Lockwood said he will use this opportunity to improve the facility, such as installing energy efficient lights.
"It's a lemons into lemonade type of deal," he said. "I will make our building better than it was before the storm."
Lockwood's family bought the building, which had been a yacht club and then a hotel, in 1979. His children work there, much like the family of administrator Alice Hageman, who has been with the Beach House for 21 years. Hageman's sister and daughter painted the murals depicting familiar Babylon beach scenes on the facility's walls. Many of the murals were ruined.
"It still seems unreal even though I'm standing right here in the middle of it," Hageman said. "This is like our second home."
Elisa Salmaggi, 55, said her mother, Myra Salmaggi, 87, is having a tough time adjusting to her new residence, a larger assisted living facility in Ronkonkoma. "She's used to everybody knowing each other's name, so it's unsettling for her," she said.
Kevin Regan's mother, Anne Regan, 83, had been a resident at the Beach House since April. She lost some personal belongings, he said, but he credits the staff with saving one of her most treasured items: the flag from the coffin of his father, a Navy veteran.
From the moment he brought his mother to the Beach House, said Regan, 49, of Seaford, they both felt comfortable. "You feel like you're walking into a family member's home," he said. "My mother thrived there. I hope she can go back one day."