When Lisa Sweeney returned to her job as a postal worker in Staten Island after a week of vacation, she expected her route of 13 years to be more or less the same. Since having the same route for over a dozen years, she had come to recognize the people, names, and addresses of just about everyone in the neighborhood and said that she notices when things are amiss.
“I’m just aware of everything,” she said. “It’s a very quiet, quaint area that I deliver the mail, so anything out of the ordinary, a light bulb goes off in my head.”
On the Monday she returned to work, that light bulb burned bright when she approached the house of Marie Boyer, an 87-year-old woman who lived alone but was diligent about keeping up her property. As Sweeney arrived to deliver Boyer’s mail, she noticed that the last few days of mail was still piled up and the trash bins were still out on the street.
“The garbage gets picked up Friday. Her garbage pails were still out in the driveway [that Monday],” said Sweeney. “That was a signal.”
Sweeney acted quickly, immediately calling 911 even though she wasn’t sure if she was just overreacting or if this was an emergency. Since she was still working and on the clock, she continued to circle the block and deliver the mail to the neighbors but kept walking back by the house until police arrived. As they broke into the home, Sweeney held her breath and waited hear back from the police about Boyer’s status.
“When someone finally came down and said, ‘She’s alive,’ I started crying,” said the mail carrier, who has been working as a postal worker for 30 years. “I was just happy she was alive.”
Despite not being around for the past week, Sweeney was able to recognize that Boyer was in crisis, even when none of the neighbors had. Though she didn’t know for sure, Boyer’s presence in the house confirmed the inkling Sweeney had; it turns out that Boyer had slipped and fallen badly four days prior to Sweeney noticing her absence and that she had been on the floor calling for help ever since.
“When I fell to the ground, I couldn’t get up again,” Boyer said. “The windows were closed, and I kept on calling out and telling people to call 911. But nobody could hear me. So that went on for like three days. That’s when I was getting dehydrated. I didn’t want to die that way. I don’t think anybody would want to die in that kind of circumstance.”
Thankfully, Boyer didn’t have to experience that. The elderly woman said that she had a feeling it would be Sweeney that would finally notice that she had been absent because the mail was piled up, something that never happens. By the time police discovered Boyer in the house, she was extremely dehydrated and unconscious; the first thing she remembers is waking up with Sweeney standing over her.
Though Boyer has since moved to a senior center, she and Sweeney are closer than ever. Sweeney still personally delivers her mail and visits twice a week to keep their relationship going, and Sweeney and her son were both invited to Boyer’s 87th birthday party.
“I think she’s very special,” Boyer said. “I don’t think she just thinks about herself. She thinks about others.”