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On Staten Island, photographs tell story of incredible loss after Hurricane Sandy

Photo credit: Ann Curry

Rock Center

Phyllis Puglia has lived in Staten Island, New York, since 1997. As Hurricane Sandy approached the Northeast, she and her husband evacuated to safety, staying with family on higher ground. After the hurricane passed, she returned to her neighborhood to discover her home had been lifted by the force of the storm surge and carried away.

The 62-year-old grandmother made her way across a waterlogged field and found her greatest treasures scattered nearly a mile away. Some of the only remnants were black-and-white photos of her mother and father.

Photo credit: Ann Curry

"My pictures mean the world to me," Puglia told NBC's Ann Curry, holding photographs partially ruined by water. "This is the only wedding photograph of my mom."

On Twitter, a photo restoration expert offered to restore her damaged photos. But most of Puglia and her husband's world is gone and the prospect of starting over is daunting.

Photo credit: Ann Curry

"Our whole life is here," Puglia said through tears. "How do we start over? It took 30 years to get our home. And now he retired and we're in our 60s and where do we go? How do we start to build a life all over again?"

Standing on a pile of debris that used to be her home, Puglia said the entire experience was like a nightmare.

"I want to go home, but there's no home. I can't go home. And that's killing me."


Click here to watch Ann Curry's original report from Staten Island, NY, which originally aired Thursday, Nov. 1 on NBC's Rock Center with Brian Williams

 Click here to watch Rock Center's follow-up report featuring Phyllis Puglia one week after the storm.