Williamsburg, NY - Holiday Painful for Woman Who Lost Three in 2005 Passover Fire
The Orthodox Jewish matriarch still struggles with the horrible memories of a fire three years ago that killed her two youngest boys and a grandson.
The so-called Passover Fire that swept through her apartment on April 25, 2005, also injured 10 others and left her family broken in ways that can never be fixed.
“It’s very hard to talk about it,” Matyas, 64, said. “The wound is still open. It’s such a hard time of year because I just keep crying all the time.”
Thoughts of 16-year-old Eugene, 13-year-old Yuda and little Israel Falkowitz, 7, her grandson, were constantly with her as she cleaned before the holiday, hunted through the house to rid it of unleavened bread, called hametz, and prepared last night’s ritual dinner, called the Seder.
“It hurts to take out the hametz, to bring in the matzo, everything,” she said.
The fire was officially declared accidental, though some blamed the religious prohibition against turning stoves on or off on Passover.
The family blames a faulty stove, and documents in their suit against the management of the low-income Williamsburg apartment show they complained about the $250 appliance and that workers tried to fix it four times in the year before the fire, lawyer Herb Subin said.
“They were fixing it as recently as 10 days before the fire,” Subin said, noting there had been 37 fires in the building in the previous seven months.
“It was a chronically defective stove, but the defendants chose to be penny-wise, pound-foolish, and it cost three lives,” he said.
The apartment’s design also was to blame, Subin said, since the kitchen where the fire started is next to the door and the only escape is out the windows.
A faulty smoke detector didn’t help either, he noted. The boys died of smoke inhalation. Two sisters broke legs leaping from the second-story window.
Lawyers for Bedford Gardens Co., the Ross-Rodney Housing Corp. and Kraus Management, all named in the $100million suit, did not return repeated phone calls.
Rachel Matyas has eight older children, but nothing can replace what she lost that day.
Still, she hides her anger and sorrow so that grandkids and other young ones at the Seder will think of Passover as a time of celebration - not as the dreadful anniversary it also has become.
“The only way to survive is by having faith in whatever Hashem [God] does,” she said.
“Hashem has a plan. We don’t understand, but we believe. That gives us the strength to go forward.”
More of today's headlines“New York - U.S. Stocks rose sharply Thursday the first day of passover after an upbeat forecast from Wells Fargo, capping their fifth straight up week. Wells Fargo...” New York - U.S. Stocks Closed Above 8000 “Washington - "Pass the matzo, please," President Obama seems to be saying as he makes history last night -- becoming the first sitting president to host a White House...” Washington - Lotso Matz-O At Obama's Seder