PATCHOGUE, N.Y. — More than a dozen years ago, a 10-year-old girl scrawled a message on a piece of notebook paper, sealed it up in a green plastic bottle and tossed it into the ocean.
The note contained a line from the movie "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" that reflected the girl's personal philosophy: "Be excellent to yourself, dude!"
But that bottle was swept away and forgotten. The girl grew up, went away to school and died in an accident at age 18. Her family mourned and did its best to move on.
It took Superstorm Sandy to churn up the bottle and the memories of a little girl in the exuberance of her childhood.
A sharp-eyed worker cleaning up the beaches in the Long Island village of Patchogue just before Thanksgiving spotted the bottle amid piles of garbage washed ashore by the hurricane's powerful storm surge. The note inside was signed Sidonie Fery and contained a New York City phone number.
"I was just sobbing when I heard they had found it," said Mimi Fery, the girl's mother. "These are very, very kind people."
Last weekend, Fery returned to the seaside village about 60 miles east of Manhattan where she again thanked the workers and attended a ceremony where a small plaque was dedicated as a remembrance to Sidonie, who died in a 2010 fall from a cliff in Switzerland while attending boarding school.
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 "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" was her daughter's favorite movie.
Fery 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."
She said her daughter was a "very artistic and vivacious young woman" who was so independent that she traveled by herself to visit relatives in Iran every summer beginning when she was about 7.
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.Comment on this story
"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.
Brian Waldron, a Patchogue parks department employee who supervised the temporary worker who found the note, says he dialed the number and spoke with Sidoni's mother.
"I told her I felt like her daughter was looking down from heaven and wanted me to give her a call," Waldron said. "She was crying, everybody was crying."