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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Time to End the Curse of 2009!!!

Photo Album of Tragic Fire Killing a Husband and Wife
in North White Plains, NY- My next door neighbors
Fire 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!!!!


  1. What a terrible experience. I am glad you are okay. I hope all your pets made it out too. I am sorry about your neighbors. What crummy year's end.

    But now a new decade and a new year! Here's to a new begining for you all.

    RD Larson

  2. RD,
    Thank you for visiting. It was terrible and we don't have any pets. But it just got worse. We have to find another place to live. It sucks!

  3. I am so sorry this happened to you. We thought 2009 was a stinker too, but nothing this bad happened to us. Hope things improve dramatically for you and yours in the coming months.

  4. I'm one of your daughter Rachel's internet friends. I'm so sorry this happened to you but so very grateful that you all got out in time.

    Thank goodness you're all safe.

  5. Barbara,

    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. I'm so glad you're all okay and I'm so sorry about your neighbors. Here's to a happy, and healthy 2010!

  6. Liz,
    Thank you and what sucks is we now have to look for a new place to live. I like living in the Residence Inn, but the Red Cross may not put us up for much longer:) It has all the comforts of home and none of the work! I hate moving and will probably write a blog about this subject very soon!!!


  7. Hi shellebelle,
    Thank you so much for visiting and for your concern for us. Rachel told me that she linked my blog to LiveJournal. We are all safe and that is the best.

    Both of us are very thankful to all of our online friends for opening their hearts to us. We really appreciate your concern and support.

  8. Lori!!!
    It's great to see you again. I'm going to miss you on the January show. But I can't think about that yet. It's at the end of the month. Right now I have to think about getting a place to live and getting all of our stuff out of the house. Some stuff needs to be cleaned because of all the smoke. We won't know until tomorrow and I will keep everyone updated.

  9. Hi, I'm one of Rachel's internet friends.

    Your neighbours sound very nice. Poor, poor family.

    I'm so thankful you're all OK, and thank God for the Red Cross - they do amazing work. Please make sure Rachel tells us if there's anything we can do to help :) You are all in my prayers.


  10. Libby,
    Thank you for visiting and I appreciate your wonderful offer. Mainly it's keeping everything together and finding a place to live that's important now. Rachel has wonderful friends!!!

  11. Barb,

    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. I'm so glad that you made it out and are all okay.

  12. Sharon,
    Thank you so much for visiting and your prayers for me and my family. I really appreciate that.

    I will know more about where we are going on Monday when I visit Social Services and find out where we can stay. I hope they will let us stay in the same hotel.

    So many people have expressed their concern for us that I am going to have to write a blog post about it.:) I am so blessed to have such wonderful friends!

  13. Barbara, what a hair raising story. I'm so sorry for your family and for the people who died.

  14. Carole,
    Thank you so much for visiting. It has been a very surreal time, but it has been made much better by the warmth and concern of all my friends.

    I hope to get back to normal soon.

  15. Hello Barbara:

    I heard about the fire in Westchester, but never made the connection it was your home. My heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to you all in this difficult time.

    If there is anything you need please do not hesitate to ask. I'm truly only a hop and a skip over the TZ bridge to you.

    Hang in there. I'm sure 2010 will be much better!

    God bless,

  16. That is just heartbreaking! I'm so sorry that happened. Thank goodness you and your family got out okay. But so sad about the couple that died.

    1. Thank you for reading this post. Rereading it I realized how up in the air we were at the time I wrote it. it's eight years and I still can't think about them and what happened without crying. There was a big church service for them by their church and they had a big portrait of the two of them. They were a young Hispanic couple who came from the same village in Mexico. Many people at that church also came from that town. it was a terrible tragedy. The entire building was condemned and then demolished. But a year or two ago we went over there and almost the same building is back up on that spot.


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