Greenwich has always been a fairly quiet and safe haven in the world considering its size. The most memorable murder ocurred 35 years ago when a pretty 15-year-old blonde was bludgeoned to death with a golf club by a psychotic neighbor of roughly the same age. The fact that the convicted killer was a nephew of the late Robert Kennedy only served to give this story greater national atention. The result was two books, a novel and a movie based on the painful event.
But for the most part, tragedy has rarely invaded these parts. Unforunately, when it does, I happen to be around for it. Two years ago, the last time I spent Christmas here, a Polish live-in gardener vented his anger at his wife’s filing for divorce by slitting their 20-year-old daughter’s throat and then trying to commit suicide, which he failed at. The item of news left me distraught. What a way to end the year. What a way to end your life.
Well, this year was hardly any better, if not worse altogether. No crime was committed but tragedy struck again and dampened the Christmas spirit the rest of the area was trying so hard to kindle. Early in the morning of Christmas day, a fire rapidly spread in a beautiful old Victorian house in the Shippan section of Stamford, engulfing it in flames in a matter of minutes. That result was unthinkable. A woman and her partner survived, but her three daughters, aged 9 and 7 (the younger ones were twins) perished along with her parents, who were in the house and tried to rescue them. The news wasn’t sad…it was horrrific. I couldn’t get those children out of my head. I kept running through those terrifying final moments with them. It just seemed impossible.
It turns out that the blaze was caused by embers which had been taken out of the fireplace by the boyfriend and placed in a bag and then out in the mudroom so that the young ones would believe Santa Claus had come and not been burned. Yes, the story is that ironic and that heartbreaking. I can’t even begin to try to imagine how that mother will manage to overcome such a personal catastrophy. And the man who survived will have to live with this terrible reality for the rest of his life. I can think of few emotional burdens as hard to bear, though I have to admit that the man seemed to be handling everything initially with uncommon collectedness and even a touch of thoughtlessness. His first words were something to the nature of “We’re going to be OK. We’re just trying to stay positive.” He added that his three days in the hospital felt like an eternity. These he uttered just three days after the fire. No mention of the victims, especially those poor little girls who clearly must have suffered so much. It also turns out that he didn’t have any fire alarms activated (or so it seems), was inhabitating a house under renovation without a permit, nor was he even licensed to serve as contractor in Connecticut. The authorities of Stamford mentioned that no charges were expected to be placed, and the home was demolished about 24 hours after the event, which I personally found surprising.
No one is saying we should lynch this guy, but to dismiss any resposibility without a full-scale investigation, especially after an apparent series of grave acts of professional and human negligence were committed, seems a bit precipitous. I get the feeling that, after the shock has faded, we won’t have heard the last of this story.
I just hope that the next time I’m in Greenwich for Christmas, I won’t have to see another tearful event.