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The Fire-The Aftermath
Our Neighbor Claudette

In my previous journal entry,I wrote about the fire that took my neighbors life and how I wasn't able to save her.Despite my best efforts,the fire spread and I was forced to leave the apartment.My neighbor died from smoke inhalation.For the first several weeks,I was still pretty much in shock.I accompanied the family to the funeral parlor to finalize arrangements and also went with them to the city morgue,where they were told that because of the fire my neighbor wasn't "viewable".We were also told that there would have to be a closed casket.I cried that night,remembering how I had warned her not to keep her stove burners on.The first pangs of guilt hit.Why didn't I turn the burners off before I left the apartment? Why didn't I scream for help as soon as I entered her apartment and found her clothes on fire? While waiting for 911 to arrive I tried to do everything myself.I cried also knowing that her precious cat mimi perished as well.
            Two days after the fire,while coming home from shopping,we heard this frantic meowing.Mimi was alive and had survived in the burned out apartment without any food or water for two days.We called the 7th precinct and our super opened up the door so we could take Mimi into our apartment.
        Because of the autopsy,the wake and funeral was held a week later. The family and I set up pictures all around the casket since it was closed.Several people gave eulogies including myself.I remembered her sense of humor and spoke about how we used to tease each other about our ample stomachs,referring to them as "our alien babies".Although i went to the wake and funeral,I didn't go to the burial out at Calverton National Cemetary.i was so physically and mentally exausted from the ordeal,that I slept an entire day.

      For almost three months now,I have gone from feeling numb and in shock to being depressed and angry about the senselessness of my neighbors death.Had their been heat in our apartments,maybe she would not have had to turn on her top burners.On the other hand because of her medical conditions;polio,arthritis,poor circulation and diabetes,she was frequently cold.She also used a quad cane and walker to get around and may have not been using the cane that morning when her clothes caught fire from the stove.I pondered these questions for almost three months now,and realized it would take many more months until I stopped asking.

I have tried to remember all the nice things Claudette did for her friends including us.I knew it would take many more months before I was able to process everything that happened.But I knew one thing for sure.Our lives would never be the same.