My wife, Debbie, and I feel very blessed that we were able to escape, through a small second floor window, the fire that destroyed our beautiful home of 38 years, a home where we raised our six sons. The morning after the fire, we tightly hugged each other, fully aware that we had the very good fortune to be alive. Just a few hours earlier we experienced great uncertainty when we awoke from our sleep to a fire that appears to have begun on our front porch in the early morning hours of December 9. (Note: fortunately, my wife is a light sleeper, which I guess comes from having six boys, and as the boys grew older she needed to be a light sleeper so she would know at night that they were home safely.) Some people who wrote to us suggested that an angel had guided us away from this great danger, giving us more time with our six sons, two daughters-in-law, four grandchildren, extended family, friends, students, staff, co-workers and community members.
The incredibly heartfelt response from the Manhasset schools and community has been overwhelming, prompting many tears of gratitude from Debbie and me. The extraordinary number of acts of kindness with which we have been blessed since this fire devastated our home has inspired us not to allow this incident to dampen our spirits. Due to our scrambling and attempting to address many details associated with the aftermath of the fire, we have not been able to express our proper thanks to each of you (and there are many) who have reached out to us to provide support, words of encouragement, a hug or a thoughtful “you are in our prayers.” Oh my goodness, we cannot thank each of you enough!
Walking through the halls of Munsey Park, Shelter Rock and the secondary school, I have been filled with gratitude as many students stopped me saying that they were sorry to hear about my house, they were so happy that my wife and I were safe, and they were glad that I had returned to school. Some simply hugged me. Many staff, parents, and community members who recently saw Debbie and me also overwhelmed us with this same spirit of care and welcome. We both are so deeply and genuinely touched by this community’s overall concern for us.
Debbie and I have been blessed this Christmas to receive the most precious gift – the gift of life. We will also be able to keep our tradition of hosting a very large gathering (out East in a beautiful home) which is a dream come true for us, to maintain our extended family Christmas tradition. The Cardillo family Christmas will be alive and well, again thanks to behind the scenes efforts of several community members. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, while there won’t be the traditional sharing of gifts (as virtually all of the gifts were destroyed in the house fire), we will enjoy a weekend where we are truly appreciative of each other, where we can enjoy one another and where we are above all most thankful simply to have each other. As people have written or said to me, it is not the property that you lost in the fire that matters, but it’s what was saved: our lives, which are blessed every day with the people who matter most.
May the upcoming holidays be most enjoyable for you and your family. Let’s take time to remember those who are no longer with us and reflect on how their lives touched us. I hope that you all have a wonderful Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanza with your families, friends, and loved ones. Once again, thank you for helping to make this by far the most special Christmas ever for Debbie and me.