TODAY   |  October 29, 2013

Sandy orphans: ‘We’ll find joy in each other’

A family of four whose mom and dad died during Superstorm Sandy have been making their parents proud by sticking together, with the help of their community. TODAY’s Natalie Morales reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> hurricane sandy didn't just damage properties, of course. it swept through families as well. four children were forced to grow up quickly after their parents were killed in the storm.

>> despite the tragedy, they have moved forward with strength and courage and laughter which they say their parents wouldn't have wanted any other way.

>> reporter: the family may have looked ordinary. four active kids , two working parents, but the eldest daughter says there was one thing they were not.

>> not by any means. my family was not the traditional family.

>> busy family. four kids.

>> yeah, kind of a cheaper by the dozen moment without the dozen. it's a crazy household but somehow it worked.

>> reporter: 19-year-old zoe , a sophomore at rutgers university and 17-year-old and 14 and 11-year-old boys.

>> how were they as parents?

>> it gave us room to be independe independent.

>> did they have something they lived by?

>> my parents weren't that organized to have a family motto. they definitely lived by live day-to-day and make the best out of every day.

>> reporter: that unofficial family motto would be tested as hurricane sandy barrelled up the eastern seaboard .

>> what's the emergency?

>> a car just crashed into a tree t. lights are still on on the car and the horn is still blowing.

>> reporter: a gust of wind uprooted this 100 foot tree slamming it on the roof of the truck. her parents died instantly. their sons were in the backseat trapped but alive.

>> somehow i untied my shoes and slipped out through the window. pi pierce got out the back window. that was shattered and the police car pulled up.

>> they happen to be about 100 yards down the street.

>> sometimes i ask questions to myself.

>> like what?

>> had the tree fell from the right and how the passenger side wasn't squooshed and only the driver's side was.

>> had you been sitting one seat over.

>> one seat over.

>> so it was really a miracle.

>> reporter: since the tragedy, zoe 's siblings have been her priority. she is now their legal guardian and continues to attend college.

>> one more bite and then you need to eat dinner, seriously.

>> reporter: in between she helps with homework, served up dinners delivered by neighbors and teaches her little brother about chores.

>> i'm going to scrub and you're going to rinse, deal?

>> how do you think your parents -- i mean, where ever they are, if they're looking down and seeing how you guys are doing today, what do you think they would say?

>> i think that they would say that we're being as strong as we can. and that we're doing a lot better than how other people would react in this situation. and that zoe is probably doing a fantastic job and exactly what they want her to do.

>> they would be very proud i'm sure.

>> i think, yeah, there's every day situations where we'll turn to each other and say, you know what they would say -- and it's never something uplifting. it's always something like i miss the dog and don't forget to take the groceries out of the car after you park --

>> mom would kill me for buying this expensive loaf of bread. like i can't believe i'm doing this right now.

>> reporter: i know in the last year you've had a tremendous amount of help from the community. what do you want to say to those people that really came to when you needed them most?

>> thank you because they sent us food and they help us out to get through.

>> pretty bad times there, right?

>> yeah.

>> we all agreed that our main goal, especially of doing this interview isn't to be on tv but we thought that the community and the first responders, especially the firefighters and the policemen deserved a huge thank you right from our mouths and seeing us say it on tape and in front of the whole world because without them and without the community we live in. without our families and friends and neighbors there's no way we would have survived the year. i don't know how we would have done it. they gave us so many good memories and it just proves how good people are. although this wound can't be healed, we'll find joy in each other and other things and we'll develop new traditions and new things to be happy about each year because there's still so much life and life is still so good.

>> amazing group of kids. as you see, they're all doing so well. they are received counseling. they're happy, they're thriving. their neighbors still pitching in. they are bringing meals every night to help them out and a testament to their strength, they decided to spend this anniversary doing something their family used to love doing all together, they're going to go play paint ball.

>> you asked the question, can you imagine how proud their parents would be? i'm proud of them and i just met them on television. what an incredible group of children?

>> it is remarkable and it makes you think as a parent, it's your worst thought but to see how resilient they are, it's amazing.

>> 19-year-old zoe becomes a mother.

>> this is the quicksilver cash back card from capital one. it's not the "juggle a