EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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January 12, 2014

FINDING HEALING AFTER TRAGEDY

Individuals and community groups come forward with aid for fire victims

LAWRENCE — Three families who lost all their possessions in fires on Monmouth Street and Ferry Avenue in December have found new apartments and are starting to rebuild their lives thanks to the generous support they’ve received from people throughout the area.

Many individuals and community organizations have come forward, with everything from clothes to children’s toys, to help the families regain some of what they lost.

“This tragedy has opened my eyes, to how many people who have stopped what they’re doing to give us a helping hand. It’s amazing,” said Stephanie Santos, who lived in the multi-family home with her husband and three children.

“People’s generosity has been unbelievable,” agreed Nicauris Cruz, who had only been living in her apartment with her three children for five months when the fire broke out at 52 Monmouth St.

That day, Cruz was working at Sunoco in Andover when she noticed she had two missed calls on her cell phone from the Lawrence Police Department. When she called back, they told her house was on fire.

As she drove into Lawrence from Andover, she saw the smoke billowing and could not believe her eyes.

“I thought it was the end of the world,” she said of the 3-alarm fire at the multi-family house. “I cried when I saw the house of my dreams, and all the hard work I put into it, go up in flames. It was sad, going from having so much to having nothing.”

All the family’s furniture, clothing and Christmas presents went up in flames, as did many of her neighbors.

“I went back trying to find the photos, but I didn’t find anything. I was heartbroken because I lost all those memories,” said Cruz who had more than a dozen albums filled with pictures of her three children, certificates and awards they had won at their schools — Central Catholic, Greater Lawrence Technical School and Bellesini Academy.

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