Outside her hotel room, Maria Puglisi held a cardboard sign that read “365 Days Strong.”
The moment was captured and the picture was added to a photo montage, which was shown at a “One Year After Sandy” event in Lindenhurst Town Square on Tuesday night.
After Puglisi’s entire two-story home she shared with her 86-year-old father, Sam, had to be gutted, they had to move to a hotel, and are now paying out of pocket since their FEMA aid ended.
“We don’t have a home right now,” said Puglisi, 52, of Lindenhurst. “But we’re here.”
Puglisi and her father were among the nearly 250 people who gathered to honor those affected by superstorm Sandy by reminiscing and watching a 20-minute photo montage displayed on an outdoor screen depicting the damage of the storm and rebuilding efforts.
Adopt a House, a nonprofit based in Lindenhurst that provides guidance to South Shore residents affected by Sandy, hosted the event. Attendees were given red, blue or green plastic candles. Red candles represented families that are still displaced, blue represented those back in their homes and green represented families showing their support.
Its co-founder, Jennifer Mackie Aulino, said the event aims to help families reflect on what they went through over the past year and how far they’ve come.
“We asked them to bring home their candles and leave them in the windows for all to see,” said Mackie Aulino, 34, of Lindenhurst. “They need to realize how strong they’ve been and how none of us got through this alone. There is hope, but it’ll be a long road for some.”
To Simon and Garfunkel’s 1970 hit “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” the photo montage began with pictures from the evacuation, the storm rolling in and the aftermath of the storm. The song drew tears from the crowd.
After Jenn Mattison’s 80-year-old two-story colonial was submerged in water, the first floor had to be gutted, which is how it has remained. After being displaced, Mattison and her three sons had to move back home in March and live on the second floor.
She credited local organizations Camp Bulldog and Adopt A House, which sprouted after Sandy, for being a lifeline for their family when they needed the support the most.
“Those organizations were instrumental in bringing people together. But in April when Camp Bulldog shut down that was hard for us,” said Mattison, 48, of Lindenhurst. “They not only helped us, but gave us a place to go. Getting a chance to see everyone who I haven’t seen since April, is great. Tonight is like a family reunion.”
The montage continued with well-known music like Phillip Phillips’ “Home” and Rob Thomas’ “Little Wonders.”
Photos transitioned to showing Camp Bulldog and Adopt a House volunteers providing donations, hot food and emotional support to South Shore residents.
A picture of Lauren Norinder’s two sons holding up a sign that read “Help Each Other” was added to the montage. Due to 2 feet of water and roof damage, their home had to be knocked down. While working on getting the home rebuilt she and her family lives with her mother in Massapequa.
“Seeing that picture up on the screen brought me to tears,” said Norinder, 31, of Babylon. “But I am proud of what our family has endured. Tonight, I feel hopeful after seeing picture of people back in their homes or close to it. We’ll get there someday.”
Photos of families standing outside their hotel or home holding inspirational signs reading “Battered, But Not Broken” or “Hope” completed the montage.
Beside her father, Puglisi proudly held up her red plastic candle — symbolic of how much the event meant to her and to their recovery after a storm that changed everything for them.
“I got to the point where I was just about to give up, but tonight’s going to make me fight a little harder to get back on my feet,” Puglisi said.