TOTTENVILLE, STATEN ISLAND (PIX11 )— It’s one of the most tragic and unhappy occasions imaginable, but a funeral for a 13 year-old and her father who were victims of Sandy’s storm surge managed to be uplifting, in a unique and stirring way.
Around 11:15 Monday morning, pallbearers brought out the double caskets of George and Angela Dresch from Our Lady Help of Christians Church.
It was the last chapter in the tragic story of the father and daughter who died when their beachside home collapsed on them as the storm waters rose up to the top floor of their two storeyhome.
The floodwaters washed the two away. Their bodies were found days later on different streets away from their home.
The mother of the family, Patricia Dresch, was also washed away, but managed to swim to a neighbor’s deck. She was injured, but survived to attend Monday’s funeral, along with her other daughter, JoAnn Moyer, who lives out of state, and who spoke with PIX11 as she was planning the funeral service late last week.
“I had never thought I’d be… picking out caskets,” Moyer said about what she had to return to New York from Tennessee to do for her father and sister. “She’s only thirteen,” she said about her sister, crying. “She’s just a child.”
However, this day of tragedy exactly two weeks to the day that eighth-grader Angela and her father, George, went missing, ended up being inspirational.
Nearly all 1,400 students, teachers and administrators at Angela’s school, Totten Intermediate I.S. 34, chose to not take off from school on Monday, even though it was a Department of Education holiday. Instead, they and many of their parents stood in front of the school, two blocks from the church, in utter silence.
With their hands over their hearts, each student faced Angela and her father as their funeral procession drove by on the way to the cemetery.
Members of the Dresch family cried as they drove by past the massive show of support, and Angela’s many friends were in tears as well.
Jenna Kelly,13, had been close to Angela since they were in kindergarten together, and was texting with her best friend as the storm surge inundated Angela’s home. It would end up being Angela’s final outside contact with anyone.
The text, which Kelly released to PIX11 News, read, “Jenna, my dining room is floating. I’m crying my eyes out.”
“I [texted back], ‘If you need anything, I’m here,'” Jenna Kelly told PIX11 News, “and then that was it.”
Other friends of Angela Dresch, like Samantha Gogarty, 13, hugged one another after the funeral procession, reminiscing about the popular, good-humored girl they’d known all their lives, and appreciating how they’d all come together in silence in Angela’s honor.
“It’s been really, really hard,” said Gogarty, as she held a sweatshirt with a photo of herself and Dresch printed on the chest. “And it means so much that everybody’s showing support for us, helping each other out,” she said, as tears streamed down her face, adding, “She is always with us.”
Three key locations to the Dresch Family — their home, Angela’s school, and the church in which Mrs. Dresch was a religious education teacher, and in which her daughter and husband were funeralized — are all on the same Staten Island street, Yetman Avenue.
One block of the avenue, in front of P.S. 1 Elementary School, at the intersection of Summit Street, was renamed Gina Alexa Morales Place, after a seven year-old who died of asthma. The family of the girl who had attended P.S.1 donated her organs to other children.
Now, an effort is underway by the students and families at Angela Dresch’s school to get the block of Yetman in front of I.S. 34 named for her and her father, George.
In the meantime, there’s another, very poignant sign on Yetman Avenue, in front of the Dresch Family’s homesite, which is now only a sea water-filled basement foundation. Verizon phone workers had to replace a telephone pole in front of the house. On the pole they left, using orange and black utility identification letters, a simple message: “We at VZ are very sorry 4 your loss.”