Photo Album of Tragic Fire Killing a Husband and Wife
in North White Plains, NY- My next door neighborsFire engulfs the apartment next to us
Our house was a crime scene with sniffing dogs -see the tape
Firemen on our roof
Firemen swarm around the house
My door is the first one on the left.
See the flames on the first floor
Mine is the red door. See how close the fire was!
It is now 2010 and already I feel a new freedom in the air. The new year has such great symmetry. I have high hopes for it. After all it can't suck as much as 2009 did.
This last two weeks of 2009 were enough to say I'm fed up with the year and wanted it to end. My daughter had a car accident two weeks ago. A tow truck just touched the back end of her car while she was stopped and left a huge dent and destroyed the entire trunk, fender and bumper. The lights were hanging off the car. The insurance company totaled the car. Then on Thursday of last week we lost our water completely for an entire day so the landlord could have a new water heater installed for our neighbors. On Monday of this week we lost our heat and had to be without heat with temperatures in the teens. When our heat was finally restored due to the need for a new part, we felt that all would be well.
Oh, were we wrong!!!! The curse of 2009 struck again when Wednesday night I was at my computer thinking of a topic for my column as the NY Literature Examiner when I heard this little ding ding coming from my neighbors" apartment. Then I heard the sound of people running down the stairs as if their lives depended on it. So I went over to the staircase to hear it better and smelled smoke and heard a blood curdling scream that sounded like a woman screaming. I opened my front door and saw thick smoke pouring out of my neighbor's apartment, which is right next to ours. Then I saw flames beginning, grabbed my phone and called 911. The flames got higher and I frantically called upstairs to my family screaming, "Get up, get up!! FIRE, FIRE!!!! I kept screaming until everyone got up and my husband who was totally undressed came down last.
What do you grab in a moment of panic when you know you might never see your house again? I took my laptop, since all my writing is on it, and lucky my IPhone was attached for charging. I found my shoes, my handbag and my coat. Without checking to see if anyone was with me, because I knew they right behind me, I walked down our outside stairway seeing some of my next door neighbors on the lawn in various states of smoke inhalation and dressed in tee shirts. One guy had on shorts in 20 degree weather. I was in my pink pj bottoms which have red hearts all over them. One of my daughters remembered her coat, while the other one was in only a bathrobe, but she remembered her Uggs. We got our cars out of the driveway and as my husband was parking his car in the cul-de-sac, fire engines started coming and he was cut off from us. We saw the flames rising in the back of the house where our neighbors lived and some of our other neighbors from houses adjacent to ours who were helping to put out the fire.
I saw one of my neighbors (the one who died) out on the cement porch we share and he asked if everyone were out of the house. As I had been screaming to my family someone, maybe a policeman or another neighbor had banged on our door hard and yelled to get everyone out!!! We were so frightened as we drove away, because we wanted to get away from the smoke and I couldn't watch my own house burn, although we only rent there. However, I have priceless items inside the house that I would be devastated to lose. But I wasn't thinking about those when I slipped on my shoes, grabbed my bag and coat and got out of the door. Now as I drove somewhere to get away from the smoke I couldn't escape it until I got out of our neighborhood. We had firetrucks there from three different towns. You could smell the smoke all over the neighborhood for over a mile.
We drove around and finally found a 24 hour drugstore to get some needed supplies and then we drove back home. We tried to get up our street by coming a different way, because they had blocked our usual entrance. But there was no way to get to our house. The various departments had put cones across the road. We stopped in front of this house where the husband and wife were outside looking up our street. We told them it was our house and they brought us into their home. We had been hanging around in Dunkin Donuts for their restrooms and a gas station and being in someone's home was like heaven. I was still in my pink pj pants.:) These wonderful people gave my whole family breakfast, including my husband when he finally joined us.
There is a very tragic part to this whole story, but before I tell you, I have to commend the Red Cross. The Red Cross came onto the scene with all kinds of help. They have services I didn't even know about. You see, our house had been labeled a crime scene since two people perished in the fire. This is the saddest and most romantic story. The neighbor who had spoken to me realized his wife wasn't out and he went into the burning building to try to save her. When the firemen saw what had happened they tried to rescue them through the second floor windows, but the fire was too hot up there and they couldn't do it. The flames engulfed the area too fast and took them both. The Red Cross was there to comfort the surviving family and they offered their counseling services for my family as well. I didn't know that they had these services. They also gave us money to buy new clothes and for food too!!!
So as we tried to salvage a little bit of good cheer amidst all the tragedy we were in at least wearing new clothes.:) The main thing is that all of us were together and as one of my daughters said: "It doesn't matter where we are, because when I'm with you I feel like I'm home." We all got out alive and I'm sick that two of my neighbors didn't make it. Our story was in The Journal News, Eyewitness News (That is my daughter talking) and was on all day long. Both of my daughters were interviewed for Channel 12 too. As I watched each report I saw that my house was intact and probably as I said before, our apartment was in pretty good shape, but the back of the house was black and gutted.
When my friends in California were fighting those fires I felt for them, but I didn't know that I was going to suffer the same kinds of things. Fire is beyond awful. If you have never been in a fire you can't imagine the smoke and how seeing the flames is so scary. There were twelve feet between us and the fire. And I will never forget the sound of the screaming and seeing those flames outside my door. What a way to end 2009.
The Red Cross gave us two rooms in a very nice hotel where we are now. We are going to try to go back to our house and see if we can get a few things, but we are probably here for the weekend at least. We might even have to move if the damage is too great! We are in the front and they built the house in modules, so that is probably what saved our apartment. We haven't seen it, but we think that there was no fire damage except for smoke. We will have to see. But my whole family is distraught over the loss of our neighbors. They were so young and such hard working good people. The man always helped us with anything we did and they shoveled the snow for us all the time. They were the best neighbors ever. Though we didn't know them very well, it was like a punch in the gut. All I could think was thank god that we got out of that place. I think if I hadn't gotten my family up they would have inhaled too much smoke. My husband has asthma and who knows what would have happened.
So I say Good Riddance 2009 and the Curse of 2009!!! Welcome 2010!! This year is going to shine!!!!