When a 5,000-pound tree landed atop the sleeping Stephanie Epstein early Monday, the Village of Great Neck resident said she initially didn’t think she’d make it out alive.
“How the heck did I survive this? I can’t believe that was pinning me down,” Epstein, 20, said during a news conference Friday at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset.
Rescue workers spent more than two hours working to free Epstein from beneath the tree, which she said fell on her at a perpendicular angle, crushing her pelvic and abdomen areas.
“I went to bed shortly after 11, and all of the sudden I heard a loud crash,” she said. “I thought it was a big strike of thunder, and then next thing I knew I was pinned under the tree. I thought I was dreaming at first, and it all went on from there.”
The SUNY Binghamton student said she tried to keep calm by shutting her eyes and breathing slowly, though a portion of the tree pressed down on her airways.
“I was begging everyone, ‘Get this tree off me, please,’” Epstein said.
Epstein’s family sought immediate help from Great Neck Vigilant firefighter Steven Blocker, who lives down the street on Wooleys Lane East.
Blocker said he had been getting ready to investigate the source of the crash when Epstein’s family knocked on his door, and he set an IV for Stephanie to prevent her from going into shock.
“It was the most frightening moment of my entire life,” Geoffrey Epstein, Stephanie’s father, said Friday.
“What started out for us that night as truly a nightmare of all nightmares with Stephanie trapped ended up as a miracle of all miracles,” he added.
Epstein was hospitalized, but did not suffer any broken bones.
She said her pain has declined significantly since Monday and in the days since she has begun to regain feeling in her legs.
Though she is temporarily using a walker to help maintain balance, Epstein was set to leave the hospital Friday with soreness, bruises and cuts.
“That’ll all heal,” she said.
Epstein said she will likely undergo some physical therapy and continue to use the walker as needed until returning to Binghamton for her junior year.
“You can’t take anything for granted,” she said.