Dateline | November 02, 2012
>> zero in on one hard hit place. some of the saddest stories and loudest complaints have come out of the battered borough of staten island . 22 people lost their lives there including two little brothers and father and young daughter. today staten island got a big dose of help from private volunteers and national relief organizations. and while residents are certainly grateful, many would also say it's about time. here's andrea canning.
>> how are you, ma'am? you okay?
>> reporter: today, it seemed as if the nation was giving staten island a big warm hug as relief efforts here went into overdrive. volunteers came out on to the streets, accepting donations from those whose lives have not been decimated by the hurricane.
>> thank you, fema.
>> reporter: fema and red cross workers offered free water , food and clothes, while national guard troops loaded food into minivans for distribution to people still stuck in their homes. the outpouring of help on staten island is a huge contrast to scenes that played out here yesterday, when angry residents complaints were reminiscent of hurricane katrina .
>> they're still looking for dead bodies , people unaccounted for. so the death toll is going up. but you need to come here and help us. we need assistance. please.
>> reporter: some called staten island the forgotten borough, and accused government and aid officials of neglecting the island in favor of wealthier areas like manhattan and the new jersey shore .
>> something has to be done immediately. not 14 days from now, today.
>> reporter: and today there was homeland security secretary janet napolitano overseeing the aid effort herself.
>> folks are going to be going door to door in these communities, making sure that nobody is left out.
>> reporter: you're, i'm sure, very well aware how angry people were aware in this area, saying the government just took too long to respond. some even calling your visit political. what do you say to all those people here?
>> well, i think we're here, and we're here in force.
>> reporter: there was one sign that normal life was returning here. the famous staten island ferry resumed service. for many here on staten island , normal life is still a long way off. families are overwhelmed by the loss of relatives and neighbors as help has only just begun to reach the shattered communities of this storm. but if there is any hope of staten island bouncing back soon, it can be found in the spirit of the blue collar residents who live here, and their extraordinary personal stories of survival.
>> we got to go.
>> reporter: pedro , an iraq war veteran , got his wife and young children off the island, but he and a friend ended up riding the storm out on a neighbor's roof.
>> the water was so rough coming in that we were afraid we would drown.
>> reporter: miraculously they made it through. his neighborhood did not. yesterday we began following pedro as he started picking up the pieces of his family's life.
>> hello, my chickens!
>> reporter: he and friends took his wife jennifer back to the flooded streets of their devastated neighborhood.
>> where's my house?
>> that's my backyard.
>> that's your entire house.
>> oh, my god. that's my stroller. oh, my goodness. that's alyssa's bed.
>> reporter: jennifer , who had planned to run the new york city marathon this weekend, was shocked to get her first glimpse of what just days ago was the place they were raising their young children. for her husband, pedro , it was all so hard to fathom.
>> my whole life right here.
>> this is officially the worst [ bleep ] i ever saw.
>> reporter: and most devastating their home was no longer there. all that was left, the foundation and the swimming pool.
>> there is my kids' strollers. two strollers in there.
>> the barbecue.
>> the barbecue.
>> reporter: as the storm was making landfall on monday, the tidal surge actually pushed the home 500 yards into a marsh.
>> all the way out there. that's unbelievable it could make it that far.
>> reporter: another ten minutes pushing the boat through tall reeds and they arrived at the location where their home had come to rest.
>> how did my house get here?
>> doing this every year.
>> oh, man.
>> reporter: and inside they found all their belongings strewn about.
>> i know. i know. i know.
>> reporter: the couple rummaged for anything that was salvageable, only so much was not.
>> my daughter's baby book. it's ruined. it's ruined.
>> reporter: and their engagement proposal tape was water logged.
>> she proposed to me on television while i was in iraq.
>> this made it.
>> it made it? awesome.
>> reporter: still, some things were not damaged, like an old box of family photos.
>> oh my god, these are our honeymoon pictures.
>> my mortgage paperwork.
>> reporter: an attache case full of documents, maybe trivial but necessary to move forward.
>> my insurance paperwork. now i can actually see the insurance, what they're telling me i don't get.
>> reporter: and while jennifer and pedro acknowledge they are heart broken --
>> i love you.
>> i love you. we'll get through this, okay?
>> reporter: -- they feel lucky to be alive and safe.
>> no reason to come back here.
>> this is wreckage.
>> yeah. my.
>> my home is gone.
>> reporter: pedro and jennifer are planning to stay on staten island , but they want to move away from the water, and rebuild their lives on higher ground. and who can blame them, lester?
>> you bet, andrea canning, thanks.
>>> earlier tonight you may have seen the special benefit concert, hurricane sandy, coming together, on the networks of nbc. music artists like bruce springsteen , christina aguilera , jon bon jovi and billy joel joined in to help the red cross and storm relief efforts. you too can still join in to help with a pledge. go to redcross.org or call 1-800-help-now.