PATCHOGUE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — At first glance, the green plastic ginger ale bottle on the beach looked just like another of the billions of pieces of debris splayed across Northeast coastlines after Superstorm Sandy.
But this bottle, which would fetch a nickel at the recycling center, is worth everything to a grieving mother who knew instantly from the silly adolescent message inside that it had come from her daughter, who died in 2010: “Be excellent to yourself, dude!”
“It was just a green bottle and I just happened to notice it and I picked it up and I saw it had a message in it,” Federal Emergency Management Agency worker Garrett Rivers told CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff on Thursday.
Sidonie Fery, then 10, wrote a message on a scrap of paper, tucked it in a bottle and launched it into the waters off Long Island a dozen years ago. It was long forgotten until workers cleaning up after Sandy in the village of Patchogue discovered it and called Sidonie’s mom, Mimi.
“I was just sobbing when I heard they had found it,” Mimi Fery said. “These are very, very kind people.”
Sidonie threw the bottle into the Great South Bay 12 years ago, just two miles away from where it washed ashore.
“The note was really fragile that was in there,” Patchogue Village parks worker Brian Waldron said.
Fery visited the spot where the bottle was found and couldn’t believe the note was still intact.
“They showed me where they found it among all this debris and it was incredible,” Fery told 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera. “The lid is broken, I don’t even know how water never got in there.”
This weekend, Fery will return to the seaside village about 60 miles east of Manhattan where she will again thank the workers and attend a ceremony where a small plaque will be dedicated as a remembrance to Sidonie, village officials said. The 18-year-old died in a 2010 fall from a cliff in Switzerland while attending boarding school.
“Be Excellent To Yourself, Dude” is now inscribed on a beachfront plaque.
Fery described her only child as a creative youngster, who was always writing poetry. She knew instantly when told what the message contained that it had been written by Sidonie because it was a quote from “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” the girl’s favorite film.
Fery said she also takes a second meaning from the message, one not to worry about Sidonie.
“Be excellent to yourself, dude,” Fery said, quoting the message. “It makes so much sense.”
“It’s incredible. It really gives hope,” Fery told Gusoff.
Described as a “very artistic and vivacious young woman,” Fery said Sidonie always had an independent streak. She traveled by herself to visit relatives in Iran every summer, beginning when she was about 7 years old, her mother said.
Born on Sept. 11, 1991, the little girl was often teased and harassed after the terror attacks on her 10th birthday by people who didn’t understand her Persian heritage, her mother said.
“She had to deal with a lot of things,” Fery said. “But she stood her ground.”
The bottle only traveled a mile or two westward from where it was likely deposited to the location where parks workers found it just before Thanksgiving last year. It was intermingled with broken docks, boating gear and a spectrum of sea trash. Because the note included Sidonie’s New York City phone number, the bottle found its way home to her mother.
Waldron said he was working with a few temporary workers hired to assist with the cleanup after Sandy when one of them said they found the bottle with the note inside.
“We opened it and it had a phone number inside, so I called the number and left a message,” Waldron said. More than three hours later, an overjoyed Fery called back crying on the phone.
“I came home and there was a message on the phone it says, ‘Oh yea we found a bottle on the beach.’ I could not believe it was a message from my daughter who had passed away,” Fery told 1010 WINS. “I cannot tell you how unbelievable it is. I never changed my number. I’ve lived here since 1977. If I didn’t have a landline I’d never get this call.”
Waldron and Fery quickly arranged a meeting in Patchogue so she could retrieve the prized possession.
“I told her I felt like her daughter was looking down from heaven and wanted me to give her a call,” said Waldron, who added that he collected a second bottle filled with sand from where the ginger ale bottle was found and gave it to Fery.
“She was crying, everybody was crying,” he said.
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