Ventnor firefighter Bill Devenny was on duty while Sandy sent close to two feet of water into his family's Ventnor ranch home.
"The water just kept coming up and I've never seen it that high," Devenny said.
Before the storm, the Devennys had been thinking about selling their home or putting on an addition. After Sandy, they couldn't live there. And they couldn't sell.
"The storm made the decision for us. I said the only way we're going to get any value back from our house is to decide that we were going stay here and we're going to make it the way we want to, the best that we can," Devenny said.
The Devennys moved quickly, using their savings and taking out a loan to hire an architect.
They opted to raise their house on concrete blocks and take off the roof to add a second-story for more living space.
After four moves and nearly a year of living in other people's homes, they've moved back in.
But here's the rub.
Because the Devennys started to rebuild on their own, right away, they can't get any of the government money earmarked to help Sandy victims rebuild. The programs don't cover money that's already been spent.
So, ironically, Janet Shepler and her husband Rob Way could end up in a better spot financially than the Devennys, even though the Way family has only an empty lot where their Ventnor Heights home stood one year ago.
The Ways had their flooded home demolished because they feared any mold left behind after a renovation could be deadly for their adopted daughter Lily.
She has special needs including a seizure disorder.
They spent the year in a borrowed apartment, filling out reams of paperwork.
"Are we working with only the insurance money, or is our budget the insurance money, plus FEMA money?" Rob Way said.
"It's a matter of figuring out all these loopholes and all this government, it feels like mumbo-jumbo," Janet Shepler said. "It's confusing on why we have to keep repeating ourselves. That's what I feel like we're doing right now."
The Ways are hoping they're close to getting a check that will enable them to erect a prefab modular home on the site. If all goes well, they could move back onto their property in January.
Both the Mays and Devennys say the one silver lining in all this is that people, some friends, some complete strangers, have been so generous by offering clothing, shelter, toys and more.
But not everyone has been so kind. Pipes were stolen from the Devenny's home while it was under construction. And, in the past week, someone stole the slide from the one thing left standing in the Mays' yard, Lily's playset.