Superstorm Sandy survivors push on, search for normalcy in wake of devastation

Survivors of Superstorm Sandy struggled Thursday to balance their need for normalcy with the emotionally devastating weight of tragedy.

Survivors of Superstorm Sandy struggled Thursday to balance their need for normalcy with the emotionally devastating weight of tragedy.

Many woke up and joined countless others who went to work, beset by thoughts of the dead and missing two days after Sandy slammed into the Northeastern U.S.

It's unknown exactly how many people are unaccounted for. There are numerous reports in New York, New Jersey and elsewhere of ongoing search efforts.

The missing include two boys ripped from their mother's arms by fierce waves, and a man believed to have been carried away by floodwater.

Other survivors are mourning the dead, including a father and son who drowned in the basement of their home; a young girl who was killed when the storm surge swallowed her house; and a woman who was electrocuted when she stepped on a downed power line.

At least 76 people in the United States and two in Canada died during the storm, raising Sandy's overall death toll to 145 after earlier claiming 67 lives in the Caribbean.

But the struggle toward normalcy ramped up Thursday, as authorities in nine states tallied worked to restore basic services like public transit and electricity.

The two missing boys are ages 2 and 4. They were separated from their mother when the SUV they were riding in was overwhelmed by the storm surge that struck New York's Staten Island, authorities told CNN affiliate NY1.

The mother and two boys escaped the SUV that was quickly filling with water only to be overtaken by the storm surge.

"She had them in her arms, and a wave came and swept them out of her arms," a family member told the New York Daily News.

Sandy claimed 28 lives in New York. "Tragically, we expect that number to go up," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters Wednesday.

The body of 13-year-old Andrea Dresch was pulled from the debris of a house in New York's Staten Island that was swallowed by a tidal surge when Sandy swept ashore, authorities told CNN affiliate WCBS on Wednesday. Her father was among those reported missing, reported.

When it comes to electricity, Manhattan has become an island of haves and have-nots. Those without power generally were south of Midtown's 34th Street. Parts of Queens and Staten Island also had no electricity Thursday.

New York's vast transit network remains hobbled. The Metropolitan Transit Authority said 14 of 23 subway lines were running and 4,000 buses were taking up the slack -- packed with commuters. Many who made their way into Manhattan from the outer boroughs Thursday took four to five hours to get to work.

Floodwater filled some subway and vehicle tunnels, and getting water out of the tunnels is "one of the main orders of business right now," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

Another sign of the struggle toward normalcy: the New York City Marathon. Organizers pushed to hold the iconic footrace as scheduled this Sunday.

Event organizer Mary Wittenberg said the race shouldn't divert any resources from the recovery. But, she said, keeping the marathon on schedule signals that the city aims to rebound and be "as vital and vibrant as ever."

Sandy came ashore late Monday in southern New Jersey, wiping out houses, pushing sand four blocks inland, in places, and leaving thousands stranded.

Search-and-rescue crews were going door-to-door in some neighborhoods looking for people, particularly the elderly, stranded by the power outages, the debris and remaining floodwater.