Last updated: February 19. 2013 9:24PM - 539 Views

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It's been more than a month since Sandy, the superstorm combining a hurricane, a nor'easter and surging full-moon tides, tore through the Northeast, leaving billions of dollars in damage in the New Jersey-New York-Connecticut corridor.


As survivors try to regroup from the Oct. 29 storm even as wintry weather moves in, some are coping better than others.


There are those who can look ahead hopefully, even defiantly, vowing to start fresh. Having lost everything, others see a grim future and brace for a long struggle back.


Here is a look inside the world of a few families trying to find their way ahead after Sandy.


After berms holding back the Hackensack River failed, sending a torrent into Little Ferry, N.J., Mayor Mauro Raguseo's priorities were getting his town back to normal, and his family.


He faced rebuilding a town that was 80 percent flooded and his own severely damaged home.


After the river receded and residents started heaping their mattresses, couches, toys and china cabinets on the sidewalks, Raguseo just wanted to move on as quickly as possible.


I didn't want people feeling like they were living in a war zone, he said.


So, he and the borough council got debris-removal companies in to quickly haul away destroyed belongings, he said. He let residents know of a FEMA recovery center and food and clothing distribution center in town.


Raguseo returned to his day job at the Bergen County Improvement Authority two weeks after the storm. He and his wife, Valerie, who moved into their home in April, are heading back next week, as soon as the sheetrock is hung for their new walls. They have been staying with Raguseo's parents in Little Ferry.


Now, Raguseo heads to furniture stores with his wife after work. To start fresh, they've decided to buy slightly different pieces than those ruined.


The Raguseos are the last family on their cul-de-sac to move back in to their home, he said.


He fears taxes will rise after the storm and wants to try to prevent it. The city council already has authorized a bond to rebuild.


Finding a warm place to lay their heads at night has become a full-time occupation for the Alhadad family, who swam to their SUV in waist-deep water as the ocean roared down their block on New York's Staten Island. They slept in the car at first, running the engine to keep warm. But soon the family of six resumed sleeping in their tiny two-room rental, which was reduced to a soggy, mildewed mess after the water rose nearly to the ceiling on the first floor.


The wreckage of their belongings was thrown out, replaced by donated furniture covered in Red Cross blankets and towels.


The family ran a generator for a few hours at night to drift off into a warm sleep. But when morning came, they were bone-chilled.


All of us have really bad colds, said Rachael Alhadad. We just take it day by day.


Last week, FEMA finally put the Alhadads up in two rooms at a nearby Holiday Inn, where they'll stay until the federal money runs out Dec. 15. After that, the family might be eligible for two-month rental assistance from FEMA.


Rachael's husband, Amin, who emigrated from Dubai, lost his truck-driver job because he missed so much work after the storm. And the stress has taken its toll on 14-year-old Ameer and 15-year-old Ayman, who lost all of their school books and supplies.


They just got their report cards, and they're not doing very good at all, Rachael said. It's hard to study. Because you gotta think about, ‘Oh no, I gotta go home to the same thing again.'


There was a moment of horrible disbelief when Linda Marten and her sister, Lauren Mullaney, realized both of their homes on the Rockaway peninsula had burned to the ground the night Sandy came ashore.


We were both on the phone, crying, saying, ‘How could this happen?' Marten recalled, her voice cracking with emotion. Mullaney's home was among the charred wreckage of more than 100 houses in Breezy Point destroyed by a massive fire. A few miles farther east in New York City's borough of Queens, a fire in Belle Harbor swept down Marten's block, consuming the home she and her husband purchased as newlyweds in 1995.


Now the two sisters live a few blocks from each other in Marine Park, Brooklyn, where they have relocated with their families.


My daughter, she's 4, she's had dreams where she said she misses the Breezy house, said Mullaney, who is sharing a rental home with her parents, whose house was damaged by flooding. She just thinks we're on one big adventure. I won't let her see what happened.


Her two youngest boys, 8-year-old Matt and 10-year-old Terence, relocated temporarily to a new school while their Roman Catholic elementary school, St. Francis de Sales, is repaired from flood damage. Her eldest son, 15-year-old Ray, has taken refuge at the home of the assistant headmaster at his private high school. There simply isn't room for him with the rest of the family.

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