As many by now have heard, an intense fire shortly before midnight on April 20 resulted in the immediate displacement of myself and 13 others (and multiple dogs and cats) from our homes on Paul Gore Street (“Fire leaves 14 homeless,” jamaicaplaingazette.com). As a husband, and father of a 4-month-old included in this group, the experience was a startling reminder of just how quickly life can change. That night, after our normal bath, bottle, book, bed routine with our daughter, my wife Andrea and I went to sleep. A short time later, we were standing in our pajamas, barefoot on the sidewalk with our neighbors, watching our building be destroyed by flames. All because one of our fellow tenants was reckless in his disposing of a cigarette.
Such experiences often demonstrate what a community is truly made of. We had been proud to be associated with those around us in Jamaica Plain before, but nothing could have prepared us for the overwhelming outpouring of support that followed in our time of need. Starting with alert neighbors across the street who literally ran into our burning building to pound on doors, to those who threw warm blankets on our children, and the Boston Fire Department’s quick, effective response, there was an endless stream of immediate assistance. By the time the Red Cross arrived, all 14 of us already had a neighbor’s home opened up to us for the night. In many cases, including ours, those generous homes have remained open in accommodation still, over two weeks later.
The long-term response by our community has been equally humbling and appreciative. Our landlord has been working around the clock, fellow JP Moms have collected baby items, Neighbors for Neighbors has raised donations, and countless phone calls and emails have been exchanged on our behalf.
Walking through the charred remains of our building the morning after the blaze, I found my daughter’s crib to be full of debris that had fallen down from the ceiling above. In that moment, I truly realized how bad this incident really could have been. We all made it out, and stuff can be replaced. There are many in this world who still have far less. We are truly blessed, and will start again from right here. Andrea and I had a goal as new parents to raise our daughter as a proud member of our community in JP, and we have never been more enthused to succeed in that intent.
I would personally like to take this opportunity, on behalf of all of us who were displaced, to sincerely thank everyone who has played a role in helping us get back on our feet. We look forward to being active members in our community for many years to come.
Editor’s Note: The Neighbors for Neighbors fund for fire victims has a website at neighborsforneighbors.com/page/firefund.