In the days since the two-story house they shared burned down, four women and a little girl have relied on the kindness of friends, family and their West Babylon neighbors for basic needs.
Terese Uveno, 35, her 8-year-old daughter, Isabella, her mother and two longtime family friends have been sleeping in a friend’s living room, some on the couch and others on inflatable beds.
“I am thankful I have a roof over my head,” Uveno said in an interview Monday. “It’s not ideal, but it’s OK.”
The women, Isabella, and her cat, Daisy, escaped the fire Saturday, but lost all their possessions in the home they rented for nine years.
“Everything went — couldn’t save anything. Nothing,” said Mary Sentina, 84, who lived on the second floor. “Even all my jewelry is gone, but I don’t care as long as we’re alive.”
The fire started late in the afternoon in the second-floor apartment where Sentina lived. She made herself a cup of coffee and took the beverage to the couch.
“As I sat down I heard like sparks, sparks, and then I saw a light,” Sentina said Monday. “So what I did — I got up and I opened the closet sliding door, and boom came up big flames. I started to scream. I got frightened.”
Men working in a vacant apartment adjacent to Sentina’s rushed in and carried her downstairs.
“I was so shocked I couldn’t move,” said Sentina.
Meanwhile, Sentina’s daughter, Debbie Sentina, 55, who lived with the Uvenos on the first floor, was sitting at the kitchen table with Isabella, her mother, Terese Uveno, and her grandmother, Theresa Uveno, 60, when they heard a loud bang coming from upstairs.
The women, who thought Mary Sentina had fallen, ran out of their apartment to check on her.
“When we looked upstairs, the smoke was just coming out of the apartment,” said Terese Uveno.
She got Isabella and the cat, and they all ran out of the house and to a neighbor, as firefighters put out the flames. The cause of the fire is not known. West Babylon firefighters could not be reached Monday for comment.
Lost in the fire was Theresa Uveno’s late brother’s Vietnam War army tag, photos of him and her late parents and her mother’s scarf collection.
“My mom’s scarves that still smelled like her,” she said, as she wept. “They still had my mother’s fragrance.”
Since the fire, several neighbors have collected donations for the women, two others have used crowdfunding platforms to raise money for them, and the school superintendent at Isabella’s school dropped by Monday to ensure that the third grader can continue her education uninterrupted during the search for a new home.
While much in their lives is uncertain at the moment, the women said, they know they will remain in West Babylon and will live together.
Said Terese Uveno: “We’re going to stick together.”