Marygrace Tiersch knew Hurricane Sandy was going to be "different," and had a bad feeling the whole day leading up to the storm.
But the Hopatcong resident never expected what happened outside of her Charles Place home the night of the tragic storm, when a tree collapsed on her and her son, Ryan, 19, and caused a severe laceration at the top of her head.
The accident, which resulted in her staying five nights in two hospitals, having four-hour brain surgery and 29 stitches, changed her life immensely, and is still in the recovery process.
The night of the storm on Oct. 29, Tiersch and her son stepped outside for a minute at about 8 p.m. to walk their dog and put a tarp around their cellar to prevent it from flooding.
Their neighbor across the street shouted to them and asked if they were OK, and in that instant a tree crashed down on top of them. On its way down it ruptured the Tiersch's above-ground pool and took down both Marygrace and Ryan Tiersch.
Ryan was able to escape with minor bruises, while his mother was stuck under the tree with her head profusely bleeding.
"I couldn't see or hear anything," Ryan Tiersch said of when the tree fell. "It was like a grenade went off."
Ryan Tiersch's sister, Kacey, 18, was inside and had urged both her mom and brother to come in because the conditions outside were getting worse.
"I hear the biggest wind gust I've heard all night, and all of the sudden everything is silent and then I hear my brother screaming out for help," she recalls.
Ryan Tiersch said his scream alerted the neighbors, who all came over instantly to help his mother. He ran to the corner where he saw a nearby cop, who also rushed to the scene.
Marygrace Tiersch says the last thing she remembers is her neighbor asking if she's OK, and then her neighbors helping her inside her house.
"I never heard the tree, I never felt the tree hit me," she said. "I don't remember the tree hitting me. It was so loud... just the wind. I've never ever heard anything like that."
The Hopatcong Police arrived shortly after, and EMT transported Marygrace Tiersch to St. Clare's in Dover where she spent the night, and then the rest of her time in the Denville St. Clare's.
Tiersch is taking one step at a time in returning back to normal life, after returning home on Saturday and having her stitches removed on Wednesday.
She said her two kids, her neighbors, and the police who rescued her are her "angels," and might not be here without them.
"Life is very precious, and I'll never take anything for granted again," she said. She said she's learned to "just appreciate everyday, every moment of the day.. everything."
Marygrace Tiersch attended Wednesday's council meeting to personally thank the officers who saved her life.
Since returning home, Marygrace Tiersch has trouble focusing, and is still in pain. She has a hard time watching TV, reading, or doing anything that involves concentration as her brain continues to heal.
Doctors told her she can't drive or go to work for another six weeks, which to Marygrace Tiersch, might be more painful than the actual pain she is experiencing.
Both Ryan and Kacey Tiersch described their mom as someone who is always on their feet.
"My mom does everything for everybody, she will help everybody other than herself," Ryan Tiersch said. "I felt like the reason for all of this is for her to relax, to chill out and take time for herself."
Marygrace Tiersch said it will be a bit of an adjustment to continue with this lifestyle, but every day is getting a litlte easier.
"This is going to be a different way of life for me to take it easy," she said. "I want to be taking care of them [her kids], and checking on my neighbors across the street, stuff like that."
The Tierschs all agreed that this incident brought the neighbors on the block together like never before. They said they formed a new bond that they never had, and met some new residents and formed friendships.
As Marygrace Tiersch continues to recover, she reflects on how the accident has impacted her life.
"I really want people to understand to not take your loved ones or really anybody for granted, because it can happen in a blink of an eye, and it almost did," she said. "And I'm so glad I'm here to talk about it."