NUTLEY, NJ - It has been a month since the worst day in recent Nutley history, and the community's response has once again surpassed all expectations.
On the morning of Jan 18, 2020, Spring Garden school parent Joe Caprio was traveling on Park Ave. with his family when he noticed the smoke of a house fire.
After calling emergency services, he sprang into action. Caprio immediately started hitting the doors and windows with his bare hands to get the attention of anyone inside. An older gentleman exited the home with signs of burns and soot marks on his body. He told Caprio that his 7-year-old grandson and daughter were upstairs.
Caprio reports that "I looked up the stairs and saw it engulfed with flames. There was nothing I could do. Would a braver man have run up the stairs, I don’t know... I’m torn." The fire department arrived at that time and acted immediately.
Caprio's account, posted on social media, was picked up by several news organizations.
TAPinto Nutley just as Mr. Russo was on the scene from beginning, and remained on the scene until most of the fire was knocked down. To the best of our knowledge, Telemundo was the only other news organization on the scene as the fire was still active. Another news outlet reported from the scene much later in the day.
The sights and sounds of that day are things that are too difficult to forget. There was a light snow falling, pure and white, a stark contrast to the orange flames and black and gray smoke coming from the home. There was a rumble in the area. It was like that film technique, where the sound is muffled in a car crash sequence, then suddenly all the sharp sounds of breaking glass are heard. But this rumble lingered. The sound was probably related to the engines of the various emergency response vehicles, bouncing off, and being muffled by snow and low cloud cover. It was eerie.
Neighbors from Park Ave., Whitford, and the surrounding area gathered in the street, on lawns, and porches. All watching, mouths partly open, almost as if they wanted to say something but couldn't find the words. Eyes up and down the street were wet, and tears flowed on both men and women. It was as if we all knew the eventual outcome, but thought, if only for a few moments that if we kept watching, it would all work out, because that's what's supposed to happen.
Fire Departments from Nutley, Bloomfield, Lyndhurst and Belleville were on the scene. EMS units from Nutley and North Arlington were also on the scene.
On an ordinary Saturday, these first responders would head home at the end of the day, and read stories about how their sports team defeated one of the other towns that was there. On this morning people from different towns, and different backgrounds, all came together with the single purpose of helping people in need.
People who never met each other before wept and comforted each other.
Joe Caprio felt so compelled do even more, that he set up a GoFundMe to help the family.
Nutley Family Service Bureau opened its doors for individual and group counseling sessions for those dealing with what they experienced that day.
The owners of Cowan's Public ran a fundraiser the week after the fire with all profits for the evening going to the family. Good Vibes Yoga on Franklin Ave. dedicated last Saturday to the family.
The reaction and response to both events is reported to have been better than expected. In both cases, "but this is Nutley" was added to the comments, suggesting that the sense of coming together to help people during dark days is one of the hallmarks of the community.
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