Almost one year after the accident, which happened on Sept. 29, 2012, Maria Scorzelli said she and her two boys, Odin, 10, and Honor, who will turn nine this month, have found healing and hope through faith, and the outpouring of love from family and friends.
"I always believed in God, but I really believe in Him now," Scorzelli said. "My life is such a testament that there is definitely a higher power."
Over the past year, there have been so many signs of grace that Scorzelli can attribute only to her faith.
For example, she sold the family's home in Riverhead and took a brave step forward by moving her boys to Bayville, where they are surrounded by family and friends.
Still wanting to be near the Reeves Beach her husband and family loved, Scorzelli said the next sign was when she was looking for a summer rental and suddenly, after weeks of searching, found the perfect place in Reeves Park.
"There was a wooden loft for the kids, and we were close to the beach," she said. "Everything seems to be going the way it's supposed to."
Most of all, Scorzelli said, the caring of friends, colleagues, family and even strangers has sustained her during the dark hours.
"I can't believe how kind everyone was to me," she said. During challenging financial times, she said, "There were three fundraisers, and they helped me to start a new life."
Scorzelli also believes her friends, close as family, at Mather Hospital where she works, have been a lifeline.
She added, "I say this all the time, but it's true. The thing that has allowed me to stand up straight and be happy is the kindness everyone has bestowed on me. I have always believed that people are born good, but I'm astounded by the care we've received from my friends, family, the hospital where John worked. I'm so appreciative of that."
Her husband, she added, was a dedicated physician's assistant who worked at Brookhaven Hospital and Winthrop-University Hospital.
Scorzelli, who also works in a hospital and went back to work soon after the accident, said she still has hard days.
"I have my nights, and I have my moments. But I'm stronger than I thought, and I do have faith that people are good."
In their new home, Scorzelli said her boys attend an "amazing" school, where they will continue to receive much support.
"The principal lost his own mother at eight years old, so he's helped them get set up," she said.
Their new home, she said, is in a place where Scorzelli finds solace. "Everywhere I look, I can see water," she said.
Most important, she said, with her family and friends close by in their new home, "My kids are going to be okay. They're surrounded by love."
As her birthday and wedding anniversary approached on Sept. 11, Scorzelli said friends and family were worried about how she'd get through the memory-laced day.
"When you have a marriage that is built on love, which we did, you fall back on the foundation of that love, that's what's going on. The love we have is not lost — it's been ricocheted back to me," she said. "I thank God for that, and I thank John. He was a unique and wonderful human being, and I feel that he is still with me. That love is never lost."
Her husband's best friend spends quality time on weekends with her boys, Scorzelli said.
"I really have a lot of really great people in my life," Scorzelli said.
On Sept. 29, the one-year anniversary, Scorzelli and all John's loved ones will father at the Head of the Bay Club, where the couple was married. "It will be an anniversary celebration, with all of us getting together instead of us being isolated and sad. And we'll be a few feet away from where we got married."
Just as on her husband's St. Patrick's day birthday, Scorzelli said she hosted a party. "That's what we do," she said. "We celebrate his life."
But still, Scorzelli said, Reeves Beach and Riverhead are forever etched onto her heart, and into the memories of her little boys.
On her husband's headstone, she had a scene from Reeves Beach engraved. "Those rocks, on our beach, is a monument to their father," she said.
Her boys, she said, continue to heal. Her youngest is signing up for football.
"My son expressed interest in playing football," she aid. "His uncle used to play for the Jets and is coaching a new team in our new town. Practice starts Saturday and and my son said, 'Daddy will be so proud of me in heaven. I'm going to be a football star.'"
He is also once again playing lacrosse, the sport he shared with his dad.
Even though she works in an emergency room, Scorzelli said this year has taught her a life-altering lesson: "When the one you love dies, or you lose a loved one, you realize you have to cherish every second," she said.
While Scorzelli said she has never been sadder, she has also found moments of happiness, healing and peace. "We're doing okay," she said. "I feel like whatever happens is God's plan for us."