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Staten Island man tells of losses in fire after Sandy: " I wish I could have been here for my cats"

John Makely / NBC News

David Sylvester, 50, stands in front of his destroyed house on Hempstead Street in the Midland Beach section of Staten Island, N.Y.

By John Makely, NBC News

John Makely / NBC News

When David Sylvester and his wife Joanne Zito left their home on Staten Island as their house started to flood, their five cats refused to get into their carriers. The couple thought the cats would be fine as long as the water didn't get too high. He and his wife left very quickly as the water rose, just barely able to drive out in his pickup truck. The floodwater was bad enough--over eight feet of water flooded into their Midland Beach neighborhood--but, as Sylvester tells it, the power lines sparked a fire which took down his house and the house next door.

"The only things that didn't burn was the stuff that was under water, " said Sylvester. Sylvester chokes up a little as he describes "Blackie," one of his favorite cats. "That cat talked more than my wife does," he says as he sorts through the charred pile now covered in snow. "I have to laugh, have to smile, but I wish I could have been here for my cats."

John Makely / NBC News

A burned stuffed animal in front of the remains of David Sylvester's home.

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