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.