Staring at the lights glimmering on the 85-foot Christmas tree in his front yard, Thomas Kroncke did not want to say the word some might use to describe why his tree survived Superstorm Sandy while others just as big on his block were uprooted. The word, which he stopped himself from saying as he reached the end of his thought, was "miracle."
Considering the history of the tree, some might even call it a Christmas miracle.
Kroncke's giant Norway Spruce named "Sally K." has been lit up every year for the past 10 years. Sally Kroncke, Kroncke's wife, initially had lights put on the tree as a surprise for her husband. After Sally died of cancer several years ago, Kroncke has kept the tradition alive in her honor.
But this year, Sandy almost ripped the tradition right out of the ground.
Kroncke, a Bloomingdale Board of Education member, said he was not initially concerned the high winds from the storm would be able to knock the massive tree over. The next morning, as he walked through his neighborhood, he noticed at least two trees of the same size down. But not the "Sally K."
Sandy did still have some effect on the tree, however. Since the tree is so large, Kroncke has left the strands of lights on it throughout the year, having electricians come and fix only the broken bulbs before the holiday season. After the storm, several bulbs and strands of lights were in need of repair.
"Before Sandy, everything was working," Kroncke said.
Since some strands had to be repaired anyway, Kroncke purchased more lights to be added to the tree at the same time. Last year, the tree had 1,500 lightbulbs whereas this year's tree has 2,000 LED bulbs of different colors.
The electricians repaired the strands so that Kroncke was able to turn the tree on on Dec. 3. But even the repairs were challenging for the workers because of the size of the tree.
"The company's bucket truck does not really reach the top," Kroncke said. "There's six to seven feet they can't reach."
The workers were still able to lay the strands through the branches and the tree lights have been turned on every night since. As a tradition, Kroncke will leave the tree lit up until Jan. 13, which would have been his wife's birthday.