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Sandy Victims Mark Holiday Differently Than Before

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

On this Thanksgiving, we're going to check in now with two people that our reporters met while covering Hurricane Sandy. Both were forced from their homes but find themselves marking the holiday in very different ways. We turn first to Joanna Lula of Staten Island, New York. We heard from her last week as she was applying for FEMA assistance. Her house was uninhabitable. While Lula does have private insurance, she, like many people, was still having trouble getting the help she needed.

I spoke with Joanna Lula earlier today, and she told me she spent the morning at her house cleaning up after the storm.

JOANNA LULA: I spent all day yesterday vacuuming all the small debris. I have a group from a Pennsylvania Amish church. They helped me to clean the backyard. And today, the guys were cleaning in the garage, and they're just bleaching the floor and bleaching the walls because the molds start to grow up.

CORNISH: Between your private insurance and FEMA, are you able to get what you need to get this done?

LULA: FEMA, right now, is waiting. They denied me because they're waiting for flood insurance. Flood insurance, they - I call and they're going to come December 1. So it takes too long, but I understand that there's a lot of people here and they do - they have to cover a lot of houses.

CORNISH: Joanna, today, do you think you're going to get to spend some time having any kind of Thanksgiving meal?

LULA: I have a lot of friends, so I am invited to few houses. So 4 o'clock, I can go to have some nice Thanksgiving dinner and better time. So thank God to my friends. Thank you to them, and thank you to many guys who's working 24/7 - sanitation, police officers - and they spent nights here. So thank you to them because the nights are cold, and I'm sure they would love to be in their warm bed.

CORNISH: Joanna, thank you so much for talking with us.

LULA: Thank you. And again, happy Thanksgiving to everybody.

CORNISH: Now to Seabright, New Jersey, and Chris Neary. And, Chris, when our reporters spoke to you, you were actually running an emergency center for people who had been affected by the storm. What are you doing today?

CHRIS NEARY: Actually, after 20 days, we're still feeding anybody that comes into Seabright, whether they're helping out to volunteer their time to help out people that have lost their homes, any emergency medical service volunteers, as well as anybody else that comes into town to help out.

CORNISH: So just how big a meal are we talking about? Who's helping you prepare it?

NEARY: Well, today, we have - the New York Culinary Institute has actually offered 400 meals to feed the individuals that have lost their homes. So anybody can come down and make themselves comfortable here and feed themselves on a great day.

CORNISH: Now, Chris, it's obviously a very busy day for you, but you also lost your home in the storm as well. Isn't that right?

NEARY: That is correct, we did. I've got four young daughters under 10, and we had about a five-foot swell come through the house. Fortunately, our kids are young enough that they're a little bit more resilient at this point. We're staying at my mother-in-law's house in the next town and figuring out our next move.

CORNISH: As much as you've lost already, you're spending so much time focusing on helping people. And have you gotten any time to take a step back and kind of sort things out at home yourself?

NEARY: Well, my wife is a trooper, to say the least, taking care of our four children. And now that the kids are back in school, there's been a little bit of relief there. We have to come to terms with where we're going to be moving and the arrangement change. And, yeah, we're all positive because everyone's safe and happy and healthy, and we've got to just count our blessings there.

CORNISH: Well, thank you so much, Chris, and have a happy Thanksgiving. Best of luck with serving all these folks today.

NEARY: Thank you very much. Appreciate your time, guys.

CORNISH: That's Chris Neary of Seabright, New Jersey. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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