Peggy Dunn hardly expected to gather around a Christmas tree less than 60 days after Sandy destroyed part of her home and the homes of her sisters, but as the sun began to set on the holiday, the crew was together on Long Beach.
"We didn't think we'd be celebrating. We didn't think we'd be home. But we're here. And everyone's together," said Dunn. Both of her sisters lost the first floor of their homes when Sandy walloped the tri-state area in late October, while Dunn's finished basement was destroyed.
Debris from the storm still littered homeowners' front yards for blocks in the quiet community, but Dunn took solace in knowing the destruction she and her sisters endured could be repaired.
"It's only stuff. Nobody lost their lives. Everybody was hugging and kissing and happy to see each other. It was amazing. And it kind of made us tighter as a community," Dunn said.
Nearly two months after Sandy, the boardwalk in Long Beach is slated for demolition. The city wonders if it will be ready for summer, but in the meantime, it got together to celebrate the holiday.
Volunteers put in extra work on Riverside Boulevard, sorting toys, cooking hot meals and setting a mood so that storm survivors like Marie Hanlan and her family could enjoy the Christmas spirit despite losing their homes.
Those who spent weeks gathering donated goods say the generosity has paid off.
"We're going to have a great Christmas in spite of losing what Sandy has taken away," said James Hodge, a relief center organizer.