Breezy Point, N.Y. — At first glance, it looks like a bomb was dropped on Breezy Point, N.Y., in Queens.
About 100 homes were destroyed from a massive fire there on Oct. 29 as Hurricane Sandy pounded the Northeast coast. Flooding kept out firefighters who had to wait for the water to subside before putting out the blaze.
It's there that the North Carolina National Guard and U.S. Marines based at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville are lending helping hands to lifelong residents now without a home.
"The destruction is terrible. Honestly, my thoughts and prayers are with everyone here," said Lt. Jim Stenger, with the 8th Engineer Support Battalion. "I've never seen anything like this before. It's devastating."
The 8th Engineer Support Battalion is part of Joint Operation Task Force Pump – several branches of the military coming together to pump standing water out of Sandy-ravaged homes – homes like that of 73-year-old Marcella McGovern.
She's lived in Breezy Point since 1968 and knows who lived in every house that burned down around her own. Hers is only one of five still standing, but it flooded and is unfit to live in any longer.
McGovern isn't sure if she will rebuild, but she says the support that she and her neighbors have received has given her so much hope.
"It's what America is supposed to be like. It is just thrilling. I didn't realize it would be so en masse of human help," she said. "The (Marines) really came through, and they know what they’re doing. They came right in and helped those poor people that really didn’t know which way to go or to turn."
"They've all been real happy to see guys like me," Stenger said. "It's just been kind of a team effort. Everyone is just ready to help."
For those lending helping hands, it's difficult for them to put into words what it means to be part of the relief effort.
"It feels good to give a helping hand to those that need it, and we're all motivated to be here," said Sgt. Edward Ramlal, also with the 8th Engineer Support Battalion. "We're all of proud of what we've done."
There's more to be done. Residents say it will take years to rebuild and get life in Breezy Point and the entire region back to some semblance of the way things were.
"It will take time, but if anything, the people from New York, New Jersey, the Tri-State area are strong," Stenger said. "They're going to rebound from this."
McGovern says she has no doubt.