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Storm victims salvage precious belongings

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MEGHAN BARR and SETH WENIG | November 23, 2012 10:40 AM EST | AP

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NEW YORK — The storm that took so much from so many people left behind little fragments of homes and lives destroyed by flood and fire. Pulled from the wreckage, these objects have become symbols of hope, reminders that not all was lost. The Associated Press has compiled a slideshow of people with the objects that have given them comfort after the storm.

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Her late father's baptismal certificate was washed out of Joanne McClenin's backyard shed when Sandy came to Staten Island, carried off by the rapids that wove through the low-lying streets. But days after the storm, the document reappeared on her doorstep. Discovered by a Good Samaritan who recognized her father's name, the precious piece of paper made its way back home.

"I was there for them in their time of need," McClenin said of her parents, who lived around the corner from her until they died. "I feel like now he's there for me."

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In the blackened ruins of his home that burned to the ground in the Rockaways neighborhood of Belle Harbor, Ray Marten held up a plaque that shows his house number: 418.

The plaque was pulled from the smoldering wreckage the day after the storm.

Now it has become an emblem of the family's determination to rise up from the ashes.

"This is going on our new house," Marten said. "Because we do plan on rebuilding."

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The sight of a tattered American flag flying high above the destroyed boardwalk in Far Rockaway gave comfort to retired police officer Glenn DiResto, who owns several homes that were flooded in the storm. He snapped a photograph of the image as a reminder to keep faith.

"Although our little beach front town was devastated by the storm," DiResto wrote in an email, "this flag demonstrates the inspiration and spirit of the American people and the people from the Rockaways."

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Marge Gatti's sons waded through water up to their necks to retrieve a very precious family possession as the floodwaters rose in their Staten Island home: an urn containing the ashes of her deceased brother, Robert. It was sitting on her dresser, tilted sideways, nearly covered in water by the time they rescued it.

"His urn was made out of one of his guitars," she explained. "He was an entertainer. He used to travel everywhere."