The smoke that filled the downtown skyline Tuesday came from a place close to Manuel Constancio's heart. "That's where I used to grow up," he said.
It was the home of his grandparents, and being the first on the scene of the fire, he had the horrible job of telling them. "I was shaking when I had to use the cell phone," he said. "He said 'Ma, it's your house,'" said his grandmother Martha. "At first she didn't think it was that bad, but I said, 'You better just come over here,'" he said. "When I drove up I could tell that it was a disaster," she said.
Five engines, 28 firefighters, countless emotions. "It's the memories that are hard to deal with," Martha said, choking back tears. The memories that Martha and her husband created in their home date back to 1967. They survived the tornado of 1970, which coincidentally destroyed the same side of the house as the fire, and they will remain untarnished through the break-in that happened the night after the fire.
"Wednesday night somebody broke in," said Manuel. There was little to steal, but the very idea of compounding the Constancio's tragedy was incomprehensible. "It's unbelievable that people would do that, when you're already down, then step on you again," she said.
But the Constancio's are determined to rebuild, despite their lack of home owner's insurance. They are relying on family, and friends, and faith. "Keep us in your prayers, because we don't know what's going to happen next," said Martha.
A fund has been established at American State Bank for the Constancio family under the name of AFM Ministry.