story by Ron Recinto The Lookout
A Toms River, N.J., man who didn't think he would survive Sandy's storm surge, broke into a stranger's house and left a farewell note asking her to "tell my Dad I love him."
Thankfully the letter writer, identified only as Mike, was reunited with his father, Tony. And both will have a lifetime to retell his tale of survival.
So will Christine Treglia, who found this unsettling note when she returned home, which she had evacuated before the storm:
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.
Treglia posted this response on Facebook along with a link to the story about the note:
"This was my house that Mike found refuge in. We found this letter and 2 others in our home along with "help me" signs posted to our windows. We called immediately and were so relieved that Mike was safe and made his way home."
In an interview with Justin Louis of WOBM radio, Mike, who still seemed amazed by his ordeal, shared the story behind his frantic note.
He said he was at his home in the Green Island community of Toms River when his kitchen was swept away, so he walked out of his house and was swept up in the current. He said he was pulled a half-mile into the bay and then spent about four hours trying to swim back home.
"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," Mike said. "You know, sometimes you don't think."
He said he ended up across the bay at "some lady's house."
"She had towels on the couch. I just wrapped my body with the towels. ... I was so thirsty because I drank so much salt water. I didn't think I was gonna make it."
He penned the note in the dark.
"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." Mike told WOBM.
"I was swimming for so long. ... I was so cold, I thought I was just going to freeze right there," he said, "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."
After a few hours inside in the dark, Mike ventured back out into the waters.
"In the street there was about eight feet of water, and I'm like, I ain't dying like this, after all this, I ain't dying like this."
He said he was picked up by someone named Frank on a personal watercraft. Frank took in Mike and warmed him by a gas stove and gave him hot chocolate.
On Facebook, "Frank" Vicendese of Green Island writes of Mike, "He was very thankful to be alive and warm, also very emotional after warming up by my stove after it started to sink in what happened."
Mike's journey took him to a friend's house in Kettle Creek, and then his dad came and picked him up. "I told my dad when I got home, you follow me" wherever I go, he said.
Mike says in his conversation with Treglia he apologized for entering her home and said, "There was money on the table, I didn't take nothing. I just took something that would keep me warm."
Treglia did not respond to a request for an interview.
Louis of WOBM told Yahoo News he wanted to initially ensure the incident was a not a hoax so he called the number on the note.
"At first it went straight to voice mail," Louis said. "But I had this feeling I should give it one more shot."
When Louis called Tony's number, the happy father said, "That's my son Mike!"
"He seems like a typical down-to-earth, mid-20s guy who is still pretty shaken up," Louis said of Mike after their interview.
Some people on social media have called Mike's survival a miracle.
He may not believe he stole anything during his ordeal. But certainly he was given a most valuable gift—his life.