Wednesday 13 December 2017

Storm rages over brothers' death

Tragedy of doors held shut on mother of two little Irish boys leaves New York searching its soul


Glenda Moore made a terrible mistake when she left the safety of her home and frantically drove herself and her two sons across Staten Island just as Hurricane Sandy reached its violent zenith.

Her sons, Connor, 4, and Brandon, 2, are now dead, swept away to their deaths by the raging flood.

The family's SUV was no match for the powerful tidal surge that engulfed it and the 90mph winds that lashed New York's five boroughs.

After it stalled and the water rose, she desperately worked to free her children from their car seats. She put the boys on the roof, but then another large wave broke and washed away the vehicle.

But it is what happened after the two little boys had been snatched from her grasp by the swirling flood that has sparked soul-searching and a collective shame in a city that prides itself on meeting trial and tribulation with grit, determination and courage.

When Glenda Moore, a petite black woman, went looking for help no one came.

With her two sons taken from her arms, she screamed for help but was turned away.

The devastated mother told police she went to a house, occupied, we now know, by Alan Ferretti -- a dentist. She told police she knocked on the door and pleaded for help.

When she could not get in, she tried to break in through the back door using a flower pot. She was distraught and screaming.

Mr Ferretti denied that a woman came to his house and told CNN he thought it was a man who threw the concrete flower pot at his door.

If his account is true, it raises an uncomfortable issue for the people of New York. Was Mr Ferretti, who is white, afraid to open his door to -- as he saw it -- a black male who was screaming, perhaps incoherently, and trying to force entry into his home?

According to the Police Department, Mrs Moore, in her understandable desperation, did try to break a window and get into his house.

"He didn't come to the door. He must have been standing at the bottom of the stairs. She took a concrete flower pot and threw [it] through the door," said the police.

Mr Ferretti said "the man" didn't ask to enter the house but instead asked him to come outside to help, adding: "What could I do to help him? I had a pair of shorts on with flip-flops."

In his CNN interview, Mr Ferretti, who has since left his home as the storm of recrimination continues, said he sat up for the rest of the night, with his back against the door in the kitchen.

Again, if it is a truthful account of what happened as he saw it, it this suggests that Mr Ferretti was fearful of opening his door -- and not necessarily because of the hurricane raging around him.

The question, still pretty much unspoken in the US, is a deeply divisive one. Would Mr Ferretti have opened his door if Glenda Moore's white, Irish husband Damien Moore had been outside?

After she was turned away Mrs Moore, a nurse, was stranded in a marsh for several hours, clinging to a fence for her life when she feared that she too would be swept away. Hours later, she managed to attract the attention of a police cruiser and told them her sons were lost.

When Mr Ferretti was told that the bodies of the two young boys had been found and that they were dead, he said: "Of course, it's a tragedy, absolutely. It's unfortunate.

"She shouldn't have been out, though. You know, it's one of those things."

He said there was nothing he could have done, adding: "I'm not a rescue worker. If I would have been outside, I would have been dead."

One of Mr Ferretti's neighbours spoke of him as a good man who volunteers for work in his neighbourhood.

The neighbour said: "Everyone has the wrong idea. The wind was howling and someone throws his flower pot through his window.

"They didn't identify themselves or ask for help. He finds out afterwards that that person most likely needed help -- but they didn't ask for help. He's on guard after they threw the flower pot."

Legally, Mr Ferretti did nothing wrong. In the state of New York, there is no legal obligation to be a good Samaritan.

Connor and Brandon Moore, from Great Kills, a suburb of Staten Island, were the storm's youngest victims.

"They were [found] about 15 yards apart," said NYPD spokesman Joseph Cavitolo.

Both Glenda and Damien were at the scene when their bodies were found.

"Terrible, absolutely terrible. It just compounds all the tragic aspects of this horrific event," said police commissioner Raymond Kelly.

In Damien's home parish of Portnoo, Co Donegal, there is deep sadness but also anger.

Local priest Fr Philip Daly said he could not come to terms with the reaction of people to Mrs Moore's desperate pleas for help.

"You can't put into words what she must have been going through. That awfulness wasn't helped by the actions of these so-called neighbours who refused to give support.

"When she went to the first house, she was told to clear off and leave them alone and they closed the door in her face, despite her pleas for help.

"She then went to the next house and got no reaction there. She was all on her own.

"She was hysterical and I'm sure she got her message across but they weren't interested. Whether it was fear or not I don't know. But it was a strange reaction to someone in need of support."

Connor and Brandon were laid to rest on Friday after a funeral Mass at St Rose of Lima Church in Brooklyn. Their mother and father broke down and cried on the steps of the church as they walked behind the single white coffin that carried their two boys.

Back in Ireland, at a memorial service in St Conal's Church, Portnoo, Fr Daly comforted grandparents Fay and Paddy Moore.

"We are here to stand side by side with them in the shadow of this immense cross for them. I know from speaking to Damien and Glenda during the week, they did ask us to pray for the two youngsters and for themselves as well.

"We are with them in spirit this morning and hopefully our prayers will help and support them," he said.

Irish Consul General Noel Kilkenny, who was at the boys' funeral, said: "Obviously there have been a lot of victims of this storm. . . But somehow this one has, I think, captured people and not just in Ireland.

"I don't want to lessen the sadness and grief of the other families -- but this is something truly tragic."

Sunday Independent

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