Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Tragic Day at Ditmas JHS


I remember that day in my homeroom class at Ditmas Junior High School on Cortelyou Road. My friend Jayson Kerner was sitting next to me and crying uncontrollably. Just a few minutes before I arrived they announced over the load speaker that one of the students had died in a fire the night before. Her name was “Corrine Ramano”. When Jayson told me that Corrine died, I was in shock and just stared at the loudspeaker. Apparently she died along with her entire family in a fire on East 3rd street near Ditmas Avenue. I knew Corrine since kindergarten and used to talk to her quite a bit. She was slightly chubby with freckles, glasses and a “Dutch Boy” hair cut. She also wore green plaid dresses a lot to school. I guess green was her favorite color. Well, after the initial shock of this terrible news we all just continued on with our school day and tried not to think about it. Because these were the days before “grief counseling” you know. When school let out that afternoon we all decided to take a walk over to East 3rd street and see the house. I remember walking up Cortelyou Road towards Ocean Parkway and smelling something in the air. The closer we got to East 3rd street the stronger it became. Like a campfire in the Catskills, it was certainly the odor of burnt wood. We made a left on East 3rd street and continued towards Ditmas. Somewhere around the middle of the block there were police cars and a fire truck, with many people standing on the sidewalk and in the street just staring. As we walked closer to the house I immediately noticed a large gap between two buildings. Confused for a moment, I thought I may have been on the wrong street. But then I saw it, and I knew indeed this was where Corrine died. Still smoldering with steam rising from it . Just a pile of black burnt wood with pipes sticking out of it in awkward angles. The blackened mound must have been at least one story high and it filled the basement with its rubble. You could see the frames of dozens of windows throughout the destruction also. But the windows were all broken with shards of glass everywhere. And like snakes wrapping a dead corpse there were long lengths of scorched bx electrical cable twisting all around it too. Then I noticed an even stranger sight, towards the rear of the house all over the blackened mass were hundreds of orange bricks. They looked as though they were sprinkled on it from above. But then someone mentioned that the chimney collapsed, and now it made sense. We all just stood there in shock, and the smell was just overwhelming. The brown leafs of the nearby trees just fell on top of the charred wood. But now I remembered the house, it was almost like mine, with two porches, it stood three stories high. There were also painted concrete ducks in the front yard that looked like they were following each other. A mom and two ducklings. At that point I started to cry, thinking about Corrine, her mom and her little sister who all died the night before. We must have been there for a while because when I got home my mom was quite worried. I told her about what had happened and she cried too. I think she knew Corrine’s mom from when she waited outside school for me at PS 179. And I know that night I must have dreamt about Corrine, her family and the tragic fire that killed her.

Today a new building stands in the place of the house were Corrine died along with her family. And I doubt they know of the tragedy that happened there on a fall night in 1970 or of the schoolchildren that cried on their sidewalk that afternoon. Smelling that burnt wood, seeing broken glass,and just thinking about their friend and classmate Corrine Ramano.

Ron Lopez

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10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Those were awsome stories dude, My two sisters and I were there (ps179) from '73 to '83 and then to Ditmas. I remember all of the stores on Church Avenue near the McDonald avenue side. Most of my later memories was post '77 blackout Kensington, when all the Jewish store owners on Flatbush left after all the lootings. Things changed quite a bit afterwards. About half of all the Irish and Italians left, I don't remember any wasps (unless you mean after Dahill Road). It became mainly PR, Black, Caribbeans, Asian and Yugoslavian (now Croats, Serbian or Bosnian) and Russian. There were still alot of Jewish classmates. Being of Guyanese East Indian descent, I was part of that change. But what memories.

Take it easy!!

Anonymous said...

Sad story, I had a simmilar one that happened while I was in Ditmas in 76 or 77, a young boy named Wilfredo was playing in the yard of his apartment house on Ocean Parkway and as the crane that was hoisting one of those huge concrete sewers into place, the crain tipped over and the classmate was crushed to death. Its a horrible shock at that age to see someone your own age die, It still haunts me today, and its worse when you get older and have your own kids and it really hits home. Will

Paul said...

I remember Wilfredo also. he was playing in the front yard of 490 Ocean Parkway when that happened. I was in the 6th grade at PS 179. It was a horrible tragedy.

None of us had lost anyone we had ever known yet, let alone someone young like us. We all seemed to lose something that day.

Anonymous said...

I lived in the bldg 490 O.P. and I was very close with the family. I was prob about 13 or 14 years old. I lived on the ground floor opposite the side where Wilfredo was killed. I am actually looking for the family. They moved away shortly after his death and last contact I had was with Annie (Carmen) and she was living in Puerto Rico. There was a sister Elizabeth and Miriam and the parents Mariano and Tina. If anyone has any info on how I may find them, please email me @ imthesaw2@aol.com.
Thank you,
Linda

Anonymous said...

On January 20, 1989 Kashanie Greene was shot and killed, she was a studen at Ditmas JHS. She was killed around the corner from her house, she was 12 years old and in the seventh grade. I will never forget the day she died, she is gone but not forgotten.

Nicky Brown

Alicia said...

omggg i went to p.s.179 i live aroundd the blockk of ditmas avenue

Arthur Bernstein said...

I was looking up Ditmas JHS when I came across this blog... Wilfredo was in my homeroom at Ditmas we had Mr. Gaynor the Art teacher. I remember like it was yesterday. Everytime I drive by his old building on Ocean Parkway I think about him....

Shelley said...

I graduated Ditmas in 1971. Remember good times like the Mr. Softee truck that used to park on I think it was Cortelyou road. I remember a grocery store on the corner of Cortelyou and Coney Island Ave. We used to buy Hero sandwiches there.
Shelley, Tucson, AZ

Anonymous said...

I remember Kashanie Green, she was a good friend of mine, we were the same age and we use to play together. I remember how I felt when she died... sad, even though I had just moved to California and heard of her passing my family lived in the building next door. Our Mom's were good friends. I always think of her and her mom.
A couple of years after she died I came back to visit and ran into her mom. I remembered how she looked at me, and i could tell that I reminded her of her only daughter and that I was older and she just stared and I knew at that moment that you never get over the lost of a child. You just learn to live with it.

Eva P. Leavitt said...

I remember my best friend and her mom it very painful for me to be around her mom know I grew up with her since the age 3 she was a year older then me we did just about everything the trouble we use to get in growning up we was the spoiled kids on the block lol I miss her so much I still cry I use to see her mom all the time at her job but then I moved and lost contact I can go on and on about all things she loved music was her thing lol we used to have sleep overs with all our dolls she had the banging doll house lol I love her room pink every where she will always be loved and missed by a lot of people 2211 & 2225 will always have you in they heart!!! R.I.P kashanie Green Love Always Eva Ingram,Leavitt .. And to her mom I will always love u like my second mom !! P.S keep looking over me Girl ..