The word tragedy is loosely defined as “when bad things happen to good people.” The Fitzsimmons family lost all their possessions and their home in Oakfield on July 30. Luckily, Steve, Alicia and their two boys, Collin, 16, and Tyler, 11, escaped the blaze with their lives.
“When it was over, they literally had nothing but the clothes on their backs...the kids didn’t even have shoes on their feet,” said Tracine Lundmark, a friend of Alicia's.
Lundmark was at the scene the night of the fire and said: “We were all just glad that everyone was alright. I kept telling her that things can be replaced – it’s family that matters.”
The house on Maple Avenue was a point of pride for the Fitzsimmons – they had revamped every room in their home except one. Even the firefighters that night commented on their immaculate backyard, but Alicia was only concerned about her family. “We’re all ok," Tracine said her friend kept repeating, “We’re all ok.”
One of the only things that survived the flames is Alicia's MP3 player. She had just added all her favorite songs and put it in a drawer in the kitchen.
“It’s like God knew she needed some comfort to get her through all this, so he let her have her music," Tracine said with tears in her eyes.
Tragedy can strike at any time – even on a quiet evening at home. Alicia said she left the bathroom that evening to see a haze in the hallway. She thought the smoke from the grill had somehow gotten in the house, so she went to the bedroom to investigate. When she saw the fire, she yelled for Steve and they tried to put it out and called 911.
About 45 minutes into the blaze, Tracine said it was apparent that the house would be a total loss: “When they start knocking down walls and tearing things up with an overhaul… you know there won’t be a house left.”
For now, the Fitzsimmons family is staying with Alicia's mother in Bergen, but they’re looking for a temporary apartment in Oakfield. They don’t want to let this awful turn of events uproot them from their community, especially since Collin will be entering his senior year at Oakfield-Alabama Central School.
The community is working hard to help the family get back on their feet, too. Tracine and her daughter made “spare change buckets” to put throughout the town for people to “give what they can in this economy.” Buckets can be found in the local churches, Yellow Goose, Santino’s, Ally’s Cones and Dogs and the Oakfield Pharmacy.
When Tracine gave Alicia the first round of donations, she said Alicia got teary and asked quietly, “How can I possibly thank everyone?”
Alicia and her family are grateful for their lives, all the genorosity they've been shown, and for everyone's thoughts and prayers. She says that Tracine has truly been an angel. She also wants to thank Matt and Debbie Maritan, the Chase family, Mandy McAvoy, their neighbors, the Barnes (for the walmart gift card and the Nintendo DS for Tyler) and the Oakfield community.
"These are just a few of the people who have been so giving and willing to do as much as they can for us. We are eternally grateful to everyone who has helped us out. Complete strangers have been so kind and giving. It's amazing how this community and even people outside the community have been so selfless, and willing to do something for a family they don't even know. God bless them all."