Mary O'Toole knew something was wrong when she woke up to the sounds of snowplows on her wedding day. By 7 a.m. Friday, she realized she and her bridesmaids were snowed in at her Williston Park home.
"I was in a state of panic," O'Toole, 26, said.
A limo was scheduled to take them to the Church of St. Aidan in Williston Park by 4 p.m. Desperate, O'Toole and her friends scribbled a frantic message and hung it on her front door: "Help. I'm getting married. Shovel us out!"
With the snow about a foot high, they began shoveling themselves. But even after a few neighbors pitched in, "We weren't getting anywhere," said O'Toole, who teaches middle school English in Yonkers.
Then firefighters from Engine Company No. 3 in Mineola stepped in.
About 8 a.m., a bridesmaid called a sister who has a friend at the firehouse. Lt. Michael Stack took the call and quickly enlisted the help of fellow volunteer fireman Michael Eich. The two uniformed firefighters arrived at the home in a black pickup, and used large plows to clear her driveway and sidewalk in less than 30 minutes.
Jacqueline Hazel, 27, a bridesmaid, was shoveling when the pair arrived. "We were shocked," she said. "We thought it was amazing that the firemen came."
"Knowing that she can get married and that her day can go on makes me feel great," Stack said later.
Hours after the excavation, the home was filled with the laughter and the excitement that comes with weddings.
O'Toole sat among her friends at her dining room with hairpins neatly assembled in her hair. "It's really nice to see people helping out, especially on your wedding day," she said.
The groom, Christopher Flaherty, 26, said he remained optimistic throughout the day. "Even if we had to drive in a four-by-four vehicle, Mary and I were going to get married today," said Flaherty, a New York City firefighter.
By 3:30 p.m. about 150 guests - 50 fewer than expected - had assembled at the church. Most said they had little trouble getting through the snow. By 5:30 p.m., the couple were married.
And as for the experience earlier in the day?
"I'm going to have really pretty pictures and a great story to tell," Mary Flaherty said.