One former Oakwood Beach resident who lost his home and nearly his life during Hurricane Sandy is reflecting on the challenges that he's overcome in the past year and the ones that still lie ahead. NY1's Amanda Farinacci filed the following report.
On a beautiful day in Oakwood Beach you can hear only the sounds of crickets, of wind and of the brush swaying in the breeze. It is those sounds former resident Pedro Correa says he misses the most.
"Listen to what you're hearing now. You don't hear fire engines, you don't hear crowds. This is beautiful. We went to sleep listening to the ocean," Correa recalled.
But it was the ocean that ultimately led to his downfall. By now, Correa's story is well documented. The Iraqi war veteran and corrections officer decided not to leave his home when the storm hit. When the water came, he and his brother narrowly escaped death by floating on six-by-nine wooden blocks and floating up the street.
He broke a rib and injured his back. His house, thrown some 400 feet into nearby marsh land, has since been demolished.
"It's about as close to a near-death experience as I ever had. And it definitely, that night still haunts me for sure," Correa said.
Correa is one of 183 Oakwood Beach homeowners participating in Governor Cuomo's buyout plan. And while some of his neighbors have already sold their houses back to the state for their pre-storm value, Correa is still waiting to finish up his sale. He says he hopes the land - soon to be turned over to the state for preservation - will become park space he can bring his kids, and that the beach will eventually be open for sunbathing.
He plans to spend the storm's anniversary with his family and attend an island-wide memorial to remember the lives that were lost just a year ago. He also says he's looking forward to the future.
"We are coming to an end. My wife was supposed to run the New York City Marathon right after the storm. She's running it now. The buyout is coming. The one-year anniversary is coming. And we do have to close this chapter in our life," Correa said.
Correa is currently renting an apartment with his family as he waits to close on the sale of his house. He says he'd like to stay on Staten Island but isn't sure he can afford to.
Wherever he winds up, he says, it won't be near the water.