One SI Resident's Christmas Tree Serves As Beacon Of Hope For Residents
It's been more than three weeks since Hurricane Sandy hit and while Staten Island is still recovering, one neighborhood where residents have a little inspiration to remind them that there are better times ahead. NY1's Erin Clarke filed the following report.
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A blue spruce came crashing down in Joseph Ingenito's backyard as water flooded his home during the height of Hurricane Sandy. The flooding destroyed the basement and the first floor of his home.
"I lost everything," Ingenito said. "My sons have not a pair of shoes. People are donating stuff to us."
Three weeks later, Toppings Street still bears signs of the storm. Mangled structures, vacant lots where houses once stood, and debris and rubble are everywhere.
"I don't even want to come back here because all I'm thinking about is what happened that night," said New Dorp resident Leticia Gonzalez. "It was so scary."
When the sun goes down, many houses remain unlit, but now, Joseph Ingenito's tree shines in the darkness as a beacon of hope, a symbol the president couldn't help but notice when he visited Staten Island last week.
"Today, if you go to Joseph’s street, you’ll see a lot of damage and debris scattered all over the block, but you’ll also see the top of that tree, standing tall in front of his house," the president said.
Despite what they lost, the Ingenitos and their neighbors say this Christmas tree had to go up.
"My neighbor down the block who actually lost her house, it's unlivable, she brought down Santa Claus," said Debbie Ingenito. "So we bring that out during the day and my husband plugs it in and we just keep the spirit going because there's children on the block."
President Obama said the tree is a sign there will happy moments to share and life will go on. For the Ingenitos, who have lived here for 20 years and don't plan on going anywhere, that means rebuilding.
Ingenito said while waiting on insurance, he ended up using his own money to hire an electrician to do work on his home. He worries about his neighbors who don't have the resources to do that and hopes that relief comes soon.