PATCHOGUE, N.Y. A dozen years ago, a 10-year-old girl wrote a message on a scrap of paper, placed it in a ginger-ale bottle and launched it into the waters off Long Island. Now, that bottle has been discovered amid a beach strewn with debris from Superstorm Sandy.
The girl who cast that bottle into the bay is dead, but her message has been passed along to her grieving mother.
"I was just sobbing when I heard they had found it," Mimi Fery said of the workers in the Long Island village of Patchogue, who not only found the message in the bottle, but called the woman and arranged for its ultimate return. "These are very, very kind people."
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.
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 also takes a second meaning from the message, one not to worry about Sidonie, who died after falling off a cliff with another student while attending boarding school.
"Be excellent to yourself, dude," Fery said, quoting the message. "It makes so much sense."
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 Fery's New York City phone number, the worthless piece of trash is now a priceless memento.
Brian Waldron, a Patchogue parks department employee for 23 years, says 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.
They 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."