Editor’s note: After our coverage of the house fire on 52nd Street on Thursday night, we heard from the owner. Below is a piece that she wrote and would like to share:
By Vanessa Fiore
March 15, 2017 around 6:30 pm I got a phone call while I was eating dinner that my shore house had burned down. I think just like any other time of your life when a crisis happens, the first thing you think is “there’s no way this is really happening.” But it was. And it did. And it’s gone. I didn’t cry. I was, and still am a little bit, in a state of shock.
Our house is in Ocean City, NJ. My grandparents had it built in 1967. That house has been a constant for me my entire life. It’s always been there for the summers and the times I just wanted to be left alone and think. That house has seen hundreds of people come and go and parties like I could never tell my parents (just like any other kid-Dad, don’t get upset!) My grandparents raised their kids in that house, my parents brought us up in that house and my cousin has raised his kids in that house. 4 generations in 50 years.
I’d have to say that my favorite thing about it is that it FELT and smelled like a shore house. That might not make sense to people who don’t frequently stay at the Jersey shore, but if you do and have, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. It smelled like sand and salt. The hardwood floors were obviously worn, but it was a good worn. The house felt like it was lived in. Like it had seen a lot. Like it had been through a lot. It felt safe.
Shortly, after I received the call about the house, I received another call and that was to tell me that I was going to be the one to tell my grandfather what had happened. I’ve had a lot of things happen in my life, but I honestly don’t think I’ve ever dreaded a conversation like I dreaded doing this. My grandfather is 93 years old and for the most part, a pretty healthy man. Little bit of vision loss, but aside from that, he’s still got it. He’s seen and experienced more in his lifetime than I ever will. My grandmother passed away over 20 years ago, so he lives alone and my family was worried that he would hear about the fire on the news. As much as I didn’t want to be the one to tell him, the thought of him sitting on his couch and hearing that by himself was way worse.
My husband went with me and helped me break this horrific news. If I had to describe the way my grandfather received this news, I would have to say, “like a man.” He’s a WWII veteran and let me tell you something-he acted like it. He didn’t cry. He didn’t start screaming and flipping out. He simply sat there, in shock at first, and then just kind of put his head in his hands. He didn’t really ask any questions. He didn’t say much. I put my hand on his shoulder and held his hand. The only time I got choked up, was when I could see that he was flashing through all the years of memories with his eyes.
Ya see, this house can be rebuilt. We will go on and create new memories for the remainder of our lives. However, my grandfather isn’t going to have that luxury. He isn’t going to have the same opportunity that we all will. And it’s THAT only fact that makes me cry. Not the house burning down. Not the loss of material possessions. Not the memories. The memories will be kept with us until the day we die. The materials can be replaced. The house can be rebuilt.
This entire situation made me realize more clearly than I did before, how NONE of us would be mourning anything if it hadn’t been for this man. There would be no house to drive down to, no parties to throw, no secrets to keep, no babies to put to bed. I realized that this was probably the way he was going to remember his shore house, regardless of where we go from here. I just didn’t want it to end like this for him. I’ve always considered myself to be appreciative of what I have, but this situation has made me more so. Even though he didn’t speak, I watched his pain.
Nothing in life is forever, whether it be the good or the bad. We hang on to things and people while we can. We hang onto moments while we can. Hopefully, we take risks while we can. One ending is a new beginning. Unfortunately, we don’t always have control over when one thing ends and another begins. Thank you to my grandparents-Jim and Rose for giving us this wonderful privilege. I love you and will do my best to make the next house a home too.
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