In Breezy Point, a tight-knit enclave in Queens recovering from heavy flooding and a massive fire that burned 100 or more homes, a Sunday Mass at St. Thomas More Church became a spirited celebration of resilience in the face of crushing loss.
Parishioners spilled out the doors and held candles in a packed church without electricity. Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio was applauded when he spoke about braving the storm.
"We don't have a crystal ball that will tell us how Breezy Point will be rebuilt. We don't know the timeframe. But stay with it. This will happen. Do not abandon your hope because only hope sustains us," he said.
The service was held in a church surrounded by waterlogged homes and roadsides full of junked beds, dressers, photo albums and other personal items. People who attended the service said they would never think of leaving and insisted they had a lot to be thankful for.
"I'm so thankful for precious life. You know, out of the tragedy and destruction a lot of good comes because we are all in this for each other," said Annie Lee.
"I'll definitely be here. I love this place. It's in my blood,' said Ed Scott, whose flood-ravaged house was the only one on his block spared the fire.
Also attending the Mass was Rep. Bob Turner, who said the rebuilding process has already begun. "It's quite a sight," he said.
Turner won his seat in the Queens and Brooklyn area in a special election after Democrat Anthony Weiner was forced to resign because of a text-messaging scandal.
"My house was among those totally destroyed and we lost a lot of great stuff, but everybody is OK," said Turner. "We'll get through it."
"I think we'll turn our attention to helping others that are still struggling right now," he added.
Turner warned, though, that the community desperately needed more medical supplies, like tetanus shots and asthma medication.
"We need that dispensed and quickly," he said.
Copyright Associated Press