When Mary Ferris’ husband, a New York City police officer, died of a heart attack at age 40, leaving the young widow with three children to raise, she felt stranded, alone and totally unprepared.
She relived those feelings, she said, when Hurricane Sandy tore through the white bungalow home where she had lived for 46 years. But compared with losing her life’s partner, she said, Sandy was just a bump in the road.
Yet she couldn’t help but compare the tragedies. In both cases she had done everything right. She loved her husband, treasured her children and followed experts’ advice on how to keep them healthy and happy.
And she loved her home and followed experts’ advice there as well.
“People hear about what happened to us and say ‘why did you live so close to the water?’” she says. “But I didn’t. I lived 10 blocks away yet when the hurricane hit, it was like a tsunami going through. You couldn’t outrun it.”
Fortunately, she evacuated the morning before the super storm hit. Had she stayed, she would probably be dead.
When she returned after the storm, she found her first-floor bedroom filled from floor to ceiling with water. Floating furniture barred the door.
Ignoring the stink of sewage mixed with salt water, diesel and gasoline, her children, now grown, teamed up with a nephew, brother in law and volunteers she never before met. They threw out the sodden furnishings, ripped out the walls, power washed the house and shock waved it with chemicals to destroy mold. Her home parish, St. Margaret Mary’s, gave her a small grant.
“It’s just stuff,” she says as she looks at garbage bags piled high with broken china, family photos; everything she once owned. “Some day Jesus calls you by name and you can’t bring that stuff with you. Nothing follows that hearse.”