Jaime Marotta has returned to her burned out home at the end of Carter Avenue every day since Saturday's devastating fire, but its no longer a place she knows.
The fire that sent huge plumes of black smoke over this northern section of Middletown left the house a total loss. Everything that wasn't thrown from the windows has been charred and lost, including her grandmother's hope chest.
"It's frightening inside. It's eerie. It's scary," she said Wednesday, after scooping up 4-year old Shayne from the bus stop.
Marotta lived in the ranch with her parents Jackie and Mike Marotta, her brother Michael, her fiance Tyrone Kuziw and their three children Shayne, 7-year old Mia and 8-year old Jacob. The 2,300 square foot house was specially built by the family in 2002 for her mother, who has lost the use of her legs to MS. Her father also needs special help, after an aneurism left him with a serious brain injury. Now they are all living in a nearby hotel, waiting for trailers to be brought to the large property, courtesy of the insurance company.
Marotta said she just keeps putting one foot in front of the other, just "keeps moving" in order not to be overwhelmed by the difficult situation. "We're hanging in there, we're staying together as a family," she said.
She said her mother and dad are troopers. "My mother keeps saying we'll all be okay, and that she is just grateful it didn't happen in the nighttime, we might not have been awake." They were the only ones home at the time, with her brother. The cause of the blaze is undetermined, said Fire Marshal Buddy Skelly.
The family plans to rebuild, but until then, has to replace clothing, prescriptions, an electric wheelchair, a hospital bed, and so many of the everyday things they haven't even thought of yet.
The Ocean Avenue Elementary School has announced they will accept donations of gift cards and clothing for the family. See the announcement on Patch.
The neighbors have sat with the family, offered compassion and a hot meal and the use of their laundry machine.
"It's overwhelming and I really appreciate it so much. God bless everyone. If ever there is a time that someone needs something, I'll be there," said Marotta.
Jaime's sister Melissa Marotta-Reddy, who flew to the scene from the New Brunswick area after getting the unforgettable text message, said she wants everyone to know how grateful the family is to the 45 firefighters and numerous first aid volunteers. The firefighters told her they remembered the layout of the house from a prior visit a while ago, and immediately went to save her mother in her bed.
After battling the worst part of the blaze, they tossed a filing cabinet out the window because they believed there could be important documents inside, and went back to retrieve her mother's few pieces of jewelry, cached in an old pill bottle.
"I want to thank the East Keansburg Fire Company, the Port Monmouth Fire Company, all the fire companies, including all the First Aids," said Marotta-Reddy. "People don't realize they give up their own time to help other people, and they don't get paid."
The firemen have even given the family something to look forward to. On that day a firefighter overheard Mia say, "Aunt Mel, now I can't have my Communion party tomorrow. We have no house." At their meeting Tuesday night, the East Keansburg Fire Company voted that they would give their hall to the family for free, so Mia can have her Communion party whenever she wants.