The news on Twitter March 26 was stark: “Gas explosion, fire in East Village of NYC.”
I had just been there.
Diving into Twitter for pictures and tweets from New York: There was a raging fire on Second Avenue, in the block between 7th Street and St. Mark’s (8th).
That is Daniel’s block.
My son moved to New York City last fall and had just rented an apartment in the East Village on Second Avenue. My wife and I took him a carload of his household stuff in early March.
I called my wife. Had she heard from him? No. I texted Dan, trying to be casual, in case he didn’t know: Have you heard about the building fire in the East Village?
Waiting, waiting for the response, and hoping he was at work and not at home for some reason.
Ten minutes passed. The phone dinged with a message. He was indeed at his office; yes, he knew something was going on but he couldn’t talk. He would call later.
The CBS News website had more pictures. One showed the yellow awning next to the door you take to get to Dan’s stairwell. His building is 129. The fire was consuming three buildings at the opposite end of the block – 119, 121 and 123.
There was a gas leak in the basement of 121, at a sushi restaurant. The NYFD was on site. So was Mayor Bill DiBlasio.
We had walked right by those buildings five or six times over the course of a long weekend in the city. The evening news had a brief clip of one of the buildings collapsing.
Finally, we got a call. Daniel had bypassed his place and was calling from his girlfriend’s apartment up in Hamilton Heights. He was worried but fine. His roommate was OK. No word on his apartment or his stuff.
We wondered about all the new IKEA furniture he had bought and assembled just the previous weekend. The next day, we learned some families had more important concerns: they had relatives missing.
The three buildings collapsed into a smoking pile on the west end of the block. The ground level had a series of restaurants, including the sushi place, but above had been residences. Anyone who lived there lost everything.
The most terrible news came a day or so later: the authorities found two bodies in the debris.
They cordoned off the block. It was a long couple of days, wondering if all his stuff was ruined and if he would be starting yet another apartment search.
Dan, accompanied by a cop, got into his apartment to get some clothes after three days. The apartment seemed to be OK. They let everyone back in after a week. Nothing was damaged, no smoke problems. Daniel was very, very fortunate and he knows it. Consider it part of his initiation as a New Yorker.
But not everyone is taking that approach. The New York Post last week had a story about the first inevitable lawsuit arising from the fire.
It wasn’t filed by the families of the two people who died. It wasn’t filed by someone who had lived in 119, 121 or 123.
It was filed by two young women, 23 and 26, who had sublet an apartment in 129.
The blast happened at 3:20 p.m., as they were getting ready to go to the gym. They heard the explosion and ran outside. One of them got scratches on her hand from flying glass. They grabbed their Pomeranian, named Darnell, and a relative’s fur coat and fled.
The pair – whom the Post called “two prima donnas” – made a “primped-up appearance” on “Good Day New York” the morning after the fire. One chirped on Facebook afterwards, “Cool to be on TV but bummer my house burned down.”
Even though it hadn’t.
One of the women said her $175-an-hour shrink advises six to eight months of counseling. “You don’t really think you have trauma and that you’re affected by it…but you have trauma,” she told the Post, which tagged the duo as “Trauma Queens.”
Hmm. Neither woman lost anything, although they are claiming smoke damage; the only physical injury was the scratched hand, treated with Neosporin from a CVS.
Just how much trauma? They want $20 million each.
Prima donnas indeed. As they say in the Big Apple, fuggedaboutit.