Glenda Moore banged on doors in Staten Island seconds after losing her grip on sons Connor, 4, and Brandon, 2, during heavy floods and high winds on Oct 29.
Glenda, who is married to Donegal man Damien Moore, 39, was refused help after her truck was flipped upside down by the storm. Just seconds later, as she scrambled to get to higher ground, her sons were ripped from her grasp and washed away by rising waters.
She rushed to nearby homes but one person told her to go away and another turned out the lights.
Last night, Fr Philip Daly, in Damien’s home parish of Portnoo, said he couldn’t come to terms with the reaction of people to her desperate pleas for help.
“You can’t put into words what she must have been going through,” said Fr Daly. “That awfulness wasn’t helped by the actions of these so-called neighbours who refused to give support to the poor woman.
“When she went to the first house she was told to clear off and leave them alone... despite her pleas for help. She then went to the next house and got no reaction there. She was all own her own.
“She was hysterical and I’m sure she got her message across but they weren’t interested.
“Whether it was fear or not I don’t know but it was a rather strange reaction to someone in need of support.”
Damien was at work with the city council, battling the storm, when the tragedy occurred.
Glenda decided to take the boys to her mother’s home in the couple’s Ford pick-up truck after the storm hit and the power failed in her own house.
But, during the hour-long journey, her truck was hit by a gust of wind and thrown 30 metres backwards.
She got out of the truck, found herself waist-deep in water and decided to get to higher ground.
Just seconds later, Glenda and her boys were struck by a second gust, which blew the boys away into the rising water.
The boys were discovered just 20 metres apart on Thursday, days after they became separated from their mother.
Fr Daly has been comforting Damien’s parents, Paddy and Fay, who are in their 80s, who retired to live in Loughfad, Co Donegal, after spending a large part of their life in the US.
He said they cannot bring themselves to speak about what has happened to their grandchildren.
But, he said, the entire community rallied behind them once the tragedy of last week’s events came to light.
Since Friday, a steady stream of people have been calling to the couple’s home with Mass cards and other gifts for the family.
A person at their home said yesterday that the retired couple would not give interviews to the media.
One local said: “Pat and Fay are back living here many years now. Pat was in construction in America but took early retirement and they came back here.
“The whole area is just stunned by what has happened, and the manner in which it happened.
“Damien was here a few years back with his wife, but the kids have never been back to Donegal.
“Pat and Fay are in their twilight years and they are finding it difficult to cope with this. It’s just awful for them and people are trying to do as much for them as they can.”
Fr Daly added: “The parishioners here are a very Christian community. People started to talk about it last weekend. Up until that, they felt restrained in the hope that the boys would be found alive.
“People then started to call to the house of Paddy and Fay and the house has been full until 12.30am each morning and they have found that very supportive.
“It is a terrible tragedy and our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this tragic time.”
Fr Daly said Damien regularly visited Donegal, where he has many cousins and other relations.
He left Donegal in his 20s after working in a number of jobs in the fishing and forestry sectors.
It is understood his only sibling, brother Patrick, who lives in England, has flown to the US to support him.
“Damien was born here in Portnoo but emigrated young in life and married Glenda,” said Fr Daly.
“He works for the city council in New York, but over the years always kept up contact with the area and visited his parents here at Loughfad. The news has come as a huge shock to locals in this area.
“The Moores are a long-established family in the Portnoo-Kilclooney area. They have many cousins who reside here, and relations are comforting Paddy and Fay at this difficult time.
“Damien would have attended the local national school at Ballykillduff before he went to make his way in the world.”
Fr Daly revealed that Damien was at work when the hurricane hit.
“Glenda was concerned because there was no electricity in the house and she had two young boys. However, she said to Damien she would stay at home until he got back,” Fr Daly said.
Despite her ordeal, Glenda joined the search for her boys until their bodies were found by officers using heat-seeking equipment to search marshes.
Fr Daly confirmed that the family hope to arrange a remembrance in St Conal’s Church, Kilclooney, on the day of the boys’ funeral in New York, which is still being arranged.
“For various reasons, Paddy and Fay cannot travel to the funeral so the community felt it was important to show our support for them.
“We think the funeral could be Friday but we are not certain at this stage.”