Burned Out of Their Home, Couple Regroups
Bouyed by the community, the Shapiros pick up the pieces of their home and move on.
Ben and Norma Shapiro spent Thanksgiving week in New York City. They went to two jazz clubs, one comedy club, two movies, six plays and five museums. They had packed clothes to take them to those events, plus casual walking. And those are all the clothes they have left.
On their last night in NYC, Nov. 30, they went to a jazz club and returned to their hotel. The manager met them as they entered the lobby and told them that the Concord fire chief called and asked that they call back immediately.
Quoting Ben, Norma said "We knew that they were not calling because a cat was stuck in a tree."
The chief told them their house was involved in a three-alarm fire and likely destroyed. When they got to their room they found messages from neighbors, their son and nephew.
"I think we were both stoic about it," she said.
"We were thinking: 'We are not young anymore, we have lived through the vicissitudes of life, and we recognized immediately how fortunate it was that we were not home.' We also recognized that people are more important than things."
The bedroom and living room section of the house were destroyed. Norma most misses the irreplaceable: her grandfather's pocket watch; her grandmother's bracelet; the artwork picked up in their travels. And they lost of lot of things that gave them pleasure.
"Ben had been working on a magnificent electric train layout. And it is gone." But her great grandmother's dishes and items in kitchen cabinets were saved, and for that she is thankful.
But for each loss there is an amazing story of friendship, from friends and strangers. The insurance adjuster was at the house when they drove in from New York. "The first thing he said to us was: 'Don't worry you're covered.' The second thing was: 'This is not your life, go on living your life. It's your life that matters not where you live.' "
Friends were amazing, she said. "One day a friend came to take me to lunch and as we were leaving a woman I did not know drove up," said Shapiro. "She is about the age of my children. She asked to speak to the owner of the house and said that her parents had lost their house to fire and she knew what we were going through. She wanted us to understand that we have the support of the community. She had an envelope, which I assumed had notes of support from her family. When I opened it at lunch I was overwhelmed to find gift certificates for a store that sold the necessities for refurbishing our home. And two gift certificates to nice restaurants."
And this from a total stranger. "I want her to know how appreciative we are," she said. "The whole Concord community has been warm, helpful and kind. People can't do the technical work, the insurance, the adjusters, the salvage, but the support of all the people has meant so much to us that we are buoyed by this comfort. I want to stress that."
And she added: "We had that house and those memories for a long time, and now we are going to enjoy having something else. Something new. We will build our new memories the same way we built our old ones."