Picatinny community pulls together to help Marine Corps family devasted by fire

By Mr. Eric Kowal (RDECOM)February 4, 2010

PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - It is a phone call that no family ever wants to receive.

"Your house is on fire. Hurry up, and get here," Maddie Rosa said, describing the chilling phone call she received from her neighbor on a very cold Jan. 3 evening.

Marine Sgt. Eddie Rosa and his wife Maddie were returning home from Philadelphia with their three children and a nephew when they received the shocking news that their home was being destroyed by fire.

Rosa is assigned as a supply chief with Company G, 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, here and lived with his family in one of the recently built Balfour Beatty homes here on Caisson Court.

When the couple eventually made their way to the scene, firefighters and other emergency responders were still tending to the blaze and would not let the family enter the vicinity.

"I had no words. I just stood there and watched," Rosa's wife said.

An investigating officer ruled out arson and has determined that the fire was triggered by faulty wiring on the family's microwave oven.

Damages to the housing unit itself are estimated to be in excess of $75,000.

"Pretty much the whole first floor was destroyed. Not just from flames, but from smoke and water damage also," the Marine said.

"The fire was in the kitchen, but our television in the living room melted and looked like a piece of wax," his wife said.

Damage to the family's personal property was determined to be nearly $57,000, most of which is irreplaceable.

The family lost everything from memory cards with family photos to clothes for their children, she said.

What happened next was next to a miracle the couple said.

"Within an hour I went back to my car and people had already stuffed it with blankets, diapers, clothes and tooth brushes," Rosa's wife said.

The family moved to a local hotel for two days before being placed in a temporary housing facility on the installation for several days.

In less than a week, Sgt. Rosa and his family had keys to a brand new house within walking distance from the previously destroyed one.

Members of not only the Picatinny Arsenal community, but some of the surrounding townships and businesses also provided support.

Rosa's wife said the family even received donations from Connecticut and that the amount of support was overwhelming.

Chaplain Maj. Kevin Doll sprang into action as soon as he heard of the family's need for assistance. Doll was able to collect a substantial amount of money and gift cards from a very generous community to help the family land back on their feet.

Barbara Rogers, wife of David Rogers, the base realignment and closure transition manager and deputy site manager for the Navy here, works for LaJobi Inc, a furniture store that donated nearly $2,000 worth of furniture to the family.

"When they heard about the tragedy, they stepped up and donated a combination dress, a Peyton Lifestyle crib, a five drawer dresser, mattresses, guard rail, bed rails and a contour pad," Rogers said.

But the generosity from the community did not stop there.

The Rosa family said they received so many donations that they actually had to ask the community to stop. Rosa's wife said her family is incredibly thankful for all that they received, but the family decided that even in tragedy there are those who are worse off.

The Rosa family decided to donate some of the items they received to the victims of the earthquake disaster in Haiti and to a small church in Philadelphia.

"We thought we were going to face this alone," Rosa's wife said.

Rosa agreed with his wife and as the two embraced and held back tears, they once again said "thank you" to anyone and everyone who had a hand in helping their family bounce back from tragedy.

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