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Sandy, 1 year later, remembered along East Coast

Wednesday - 10/30/2013, 11:20am  ET

MEGHAN BARR
Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- Some lit candles in commemoration, others marched to remember. "Lights out" parties were held and volunteers fixed still-damaged homes.

In countless ways up and down the East Coast, survivors of Superstorm Sandy remembered the day, one year ago, when floodwaters poured across the densely populated barrier islands of Long Island and the Jersey shore.

Sandy smacked into the East Coast, sending water surging into homes and businesses -- and even taking lives.

The storm was blamed for at least 182 deaths in the U.S. -- including 68 in New York and 71 in New Jersey -- and property damage estimated at $65 billion.

On Tuesday, a crisp but clear day exactly one year after the storm struck, many took stock of how far things have come. For others, there's still a long road ahead and much work to be done. And for those who lost loved ones, the grief remains.

Here is a look at anniversary observances through a series of vignettes detailing how people commemorated the unprecedented storm:

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At a beachside park on Staten Island, more than 1,000 people walked across the sand holding flashlights, glow sticks and candles to the water's edge to commemorate the one year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy.

Among them was Veronica Bifalco, who only moved back into her storm-damaged home last month-- almost exactly a year after Sandy destroyed it.

Some set their lights afloat and others planted them in the sand. Bifalco said she remains optimistic, even though her house still lacks insulation and drywall.

"We're going to get through this," said Bifalco. "You know that, right?"

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At Meade's bar in the South Street Seaport, a "lights out" Sandy party was planned for Tuesday night to observe the historic neighborhood's recovery.

"The neighbohood's been here hundreds of years," said owner Lee Holin. "It's not going anywhere."

Still, Holin's mood wasn't festive.

"I don't just want to be the bar that survived Sandy," he said as street artist friend who goes by the nickname "NDA" painted a mural in a stairwell above an eye-level water mark on the wall left by flooding.

Meade's bar gained a loyal following by being one of the first businesses to open after the storm. But storefronts that went dark for months are starting to get new retail tenants willing to pay higher rents and charging customers more -- in his eyes, bad news for the diehard locals.

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Ken Mandelbaum remembered looking out of his Brooklyn apartment window at the lower part of Manhattan and not being able to see a single thing, Sandy's surging waters causing massive power outages.

"It was completely dark, it was unreal," he said Tuesday, joining a couple of dozen others at Brooklyn Bridge Park, where they held electric candles to mark the anniversary of Sandy's landfall, a commemoration that was also being done in other parts of coastal New York City and along the New Jersey shore.

Mandelbaum and his wife, who live on the 12th floor off a building at the water's edge, didn't evacuate during Sandy and spent days without power, using the stairs to get up and down from their home to the street.

"There were 240 steps," Susie Mandelbaum said. "I counted them."

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An accident of geography left Giuseppe and Innocenza Picheo of New Jersey with two properties to rebuild after Sandy: a primary home in Moonachie and a second home in Manahawkin on Long Beach Island. The Moonachie house had "never had a drop of water" in 43 years before Sandy, Giuseppe Picheo said Tuesday.

"Even now, I still think about it at night, before I go to sleep," Innocenza Picheo said. "When I go downstairs to wash clothes, I still look around and think about the water rushing in."

Giuseppe Picheo said he has been able to rebuild both properties and that volunteers from a local church group helped him clear debris and start to rebuild his Manahawkin home. But he knows others haven't been as fortunate.

"I'm back to normal, but I feel very sorry for those who aren't, especially now when you see all the images again," he said.

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A group of volunteers in neon orange T-shirts was busy at work outside a Freeport, Long Island, home on Tuesday afternoon, cutting pieces of tile and molding on power saws in the driveway and garage of the split-level ranch they were helping repair.

The volunteers are part of the Samaritan's Purse organization, a charitable group founded by the Rev. Franklin Graham that helps with disaster relief throughout the country.

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