NEW YORK –Victims of Superstorm Sandy in New York and elsewhere in the Northeast were comforted Thursday by kinder weather, free holiday meals and – for some – front row seats to the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
“It means a lot,” said Karen Panetta, of the hard-hit Broad Channel section of Queens, as she sat in a special viewing section set aside for New Yorkers displaced by the storm.
“We’re thankful to be here and actually be a family and to feel like life’s a little normal today,” she said.
The popular Macy’s parade, attended by more than 3 million people and watched by 50 million on TV, included such giant balloons as Elf on a Shelf and Papa Smurf, Hello Kitty, Buzz Lightyear, Sailor Mickey Mouse and the Pillsbury Doughboy.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office was coordinating the distribution of 26,500 meals at 30 sites, and other organizations also were pitching in.
The disaster zones on Staten Island were flooded – this time with food and volunteers from Glen Rock, N.J., organized using social media.
“We had three carloads of food,” volunteer Beth Fernandez said. “The whole town of Glen Rock pitched in. … It’s really cool. It’s my best, my favorite Thanksgiving ever.”
On Long Island, the Long Beach nonprofit Surf For All hosted a Thanksgiving event that fed 1,200 people. Carol Gross, 72, said she went to volunteer but was turned away because of a surplus of helpers.
“A lot of people like me, old-timers, we’ve never seen anything like this horror,” she said, recalling the destruction.
Gross’ brother, Jerry, who moved to Arizona in the 1960s, was stunned by what he saw when he returned for Thanksgiving.
“To come back and see the boardwalk all devastated like it is, it’s like going to Manhattan and finding Times Square gone,” he said.
On New York City’s Rockaway Peninsula, convenience store owner Mohamed Razack said he was able to open again Wednesday for the first time since the storm.
“At first, I was very depressed, but now, I’m proud,” said Mohamed Razack, 50. “We are the first store to open around here.”