A Sandy Survivor Leaves Behind a Heartbreaking Goodbye Note at the Jersey Shore [Interview]
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, there have been countless stories of heartbreak, loss, and devastation throughout Ocean County and the Jersey Shore. But, as with any disaster, there are also amazing stories of survival and miracles. This story started out as a last plea for help and a message of love to the family of a man named "Mike" who had been swept out of his house in Toms River and had taken shelter in the evacuated home of strangers:
Check out an update on Mike and his dad two weeks later by clicking here. The original note and story is below:
Here's a transcript:
Who ever reads this I'm DIEING - I'm 28 yrs old my name is Mike. I had to break in to your house. I took blankets off the couch. I have hypothermia. I didn't take any thing. A wave thru me out of my house down the block. I don't think I'm going to make it. The water outside is 10ft deep at least. There's no res[c]ue. Tell my dad I love him and I tryed get[t]ing out. His number is ###-###-#### his name is Tony. I hope u can read this I'm in the dark. I took a black jacket too. Goodbye. God all mighty help me.
At first, a number of us, myself included, weren't quite sure what to make of this. Was it legit? Was it a hoax? I tried calling the number on the note and it went right to voicemail. I decided to give it one more try before I got on the air, and someone picked up. It ended up being Tony. I told him that I'd been given a note, and right away he said "yeah, that's my son Mike, he's here. Would you like to talk to him?"
Amazingly, a story that started as sad and hopeless, ended up as a story of survival and the kindness of strangers. Take a listen to my talk with Mike as he tells me about his harrowing experience:
Here's a transcript of our conversation:
Mike, can you tell me what happened?
Yeah, I’m sorry, I didn’t want to cause any trouble, I told the lady, I told the lady, I told the lady I just borrowed her clothes because I had hypothermia. I didn’t steal anything.
Yeah, I know, absolutely, and I’m just curious, if you have a second, obviously people are posting this on Facebook and it’s starting to get around the area, and it’s pretty stark, and a lot of people are feeling for you.
What was going on when this happened?
I was in water for like four hours. My kitchen went, and I thought the whole house was gonna go, so I walked out the front door, and the current took me all the way into the bay, like maybe a half a mile into the bay.
And where is this that you were?
Green Island, Toms River. And then it took me all the way across the bay.And I was in the middle of nowhere and there were no lights and the first house I went into was flooded and I just really needed, really needed a break. Because the waves were going over my head, I wish I had the pictures.
How did you end up getting out of there?
Well the current took me to somewhere, which I didn't even know where I was, and it threw me back into the bay, and I tried to swim back to my house for some reason. You know, sometimes you don’t think.
So I tried to swim back to my house, because right next to my house there’s a big, big house that didn’t get flooded. But the current took me right past it, I couldn’t get to his house, and then there was a lady’s house, like five or six houses over from me, and I had no clothes on at the time, so I just went in their house, I just had one piece of clothing on me.
So I just went in their house, trying to find anything I can. She had towels on the couch. I just wrapped my body with the towels. Anything. I was so thirsty because I drank so much salt water. I didn’t think I was gonna make it. I called my father right before all this happened, and I said, ‘I ain’t gonna make it. Let me please live life.’ You know, I was so emotional, I was telling him right over the phone. I even called my friend on Kettle Creek, I left him a message. And, he’s never gonna delete that message.
When I swam back, I just went to that lady’s house. And they just called me, and I was like, hey, there was money on the table, I didn’t take nothing, I just took something that would keep me warm. So I stayed in there for like two hours. I guess I was swimming anywhere between four or five hours, in the bay. In the street there was about 8 feet of water, and I’m like, I ain’t dying like this, after all this, I ain’t dying like this.
And there was a guy, his name was Frank, I don’t know what his last name is. He picked me up with a waverunner. And he drove me to his house. He’s the one who gave me clothes. They were really nice people, they put me by the gas stove. They were like, here are your clothes, here’s everything, hot chocolate, everything to keep your body up.
And so that’s how you ended up getting out of there?
And now where is it that you are now?
I’m in Bergen County.
In Bergen County. And so you were able to get to family and get out of there?
Yeah, I just went to my friend’s house on Kettle Creek. He picked me up at a gas station on Hooper, and then my dad came and got me.
But my house. I mean, you know, it was there. You know, I opened up the door, to see what the big noise was, and all I saw was the bay. There was nothing there. And I got so freaked out. As soon as I opened up the door, the water rose five feet within three minutes.
So, I opened up the door. I was stupid. But you don’t think, you know?
Yeah. And you know what, I’ll tell you, someone found your note, and then posted it on…
Yeah! Yeah, you know, I just wanted to have that note to tell my father, I tried. You know, I wasn’t a baby about it. I tried, I did my thing.
I was swimming for so long. I was so cold, my friend. I was so cold. I was so cold, I thought I was just going to freeze right there.
But that lady, I felt like for some reason, she knew someone was going to be in that house. She had these wool blankets all over the place. And I just wrapped myself in them.
I’ll tell you what, it’s an amazing story. And if you don’t mind me sharing parts of your story, we’d love to tell everybody that you’re OK, that you got out of there. You know, it’s just an amazing story of what some people have gone through.
If I had to do it again, I couldn't do it again.
We’re glad you’re OK. Like I said, the note is going around, so we wanted to get in touch with you and make sure you’re OK.
Could anybody read that note? I wrote it in the dark.
Yeah, it’s actually been going around social media and there are a lot of people getting pieces of it, and again we wanted to get in touch with you and make sure you’re OK. I got the note sent to me through a friend of mine who got it from another friend on Facebook.
Everybody’s calling me the miracle child.
Absolutely. There’s no other way to describe it, it was a miracle. So, you know, take some time, rest up, obviously get your feet under you, and try to get as normal as you can. And keep in touch, we want to know how you’re doing.
To be honest with you, I’m afraid of the dark now. I was in the dark for so long with at least 15 to 20 foot waves that with the bay crashing over me. I couldn’t even breathe.
I told my dad when I got home, you follow me everywhere you go.
Yeah. Well you know, like I said, take your time, get things back to normal, and keep us updated. Let us know how you’re doing.
Thank you, buddy.
UPDATE: Toms River Mayor Discusses Sandy, 2 Years Later