Fire claimed Kaylee Ramos, 12; surviving family members want to return to Freehold Borough
FREEHOLD — Home means different things to different people. To the Ramos family of Freehold Borough, which lost a daughter and sister, Kaylee, 12, in a house fire on Feb. 2, 2009, home means the sounds and memories of the past and the possibility of a hopeful future.
Friends are now trying to help Kaylee’s mother, Gina Ramos, and Kaylee’s sisters, Lacey, 17, Julianne, 12, and Gracie, 3, return to the Court Street home the family loved. In the wake of the fire, the home sits damaged, burned and silent, devoid of the laughter and dreams the Ramos family enjoyed.
In a letter written to the News Transcript in October, Kaylee’s family sought to describe the feeling of “home.”
“Although the lights in the house at 64 Court St. are out in Freehold Borough and the innocent laughter has been silenced, it is still a home that we miss very much. Even in its irreparable state, our perception of home is even more apparent.”
The letter goes on to say that “even though the walls are now burned, what [lay] behind those walls was a family, is a family, Kaylee’s family.”
The letter was written to publicly thank the many people from the area who reached out and offered food, clothing, gift cards and other items to the family after the fire forced them from their home.
Stacey Berlin, a family friend, said the Ramos family hopes to return to the home on Court Street in time for the holiday season in 2010.
“Gina and her three daughters have struggled to move forward,” Berlin said. “We are asking if any New Jersey companies can donate any supplies to help them to rebuild the home. Castle Windows has already come forward to donate windows.”
PJC Contractors, Staten Island, N.Y., has donated materials and services and its employees have already started working on the Court Street home.
Berlin said Ramos and her daughters “have struggled to move forward after losing their beloved Kaylee … and all of their belongings, including family pets and sacred memories.”
Since the fire Ramos and her daughters have been living with her mother and father, Renee and Stan Petner, in the area.
“They arrived there with only the clothes on their backs — the pajamas they were wearing when the deadly blaze erupted in the middle of the night,” Berlin said. “It is their greatest desire to return to where they were once a happy family of five, return to the home that Kaylee and her sisters filled with laughter, love and life. She has no money to rebuild it. On top of mourning the loss of her daughter, she must relinquish her own pain and suffering and find a way to bring her family home again.
“With a little bit of help from everyone, Gina and her daughters pray that someday they will be able to return home, where they can move forward with their lives as a family, and mourn the loss of a dearly loved daughter and sister,” Berlin said.
Renee Petner said the family is doing the best they can.
“This is a tough family. They try to hide their feelings a lot. I don’t know how she does it,” Petner said of her daughter. “If I had to pick a hero, she would be mine. I’m tough, but she’s got me beat by 1,000 percent.”
Petner said Ramos talks to her daughters about Kaylee and makes it a point to focus on celebrating Kaylee’s life, as well as the fact that the family must move on with their lives, although never underestimating the extent of how difficult and painful a task that is to do.
“There are things we have to do,” Petner said. “And we’ll see her (Kaylee) again. She remains in our lives and in our hearts every day.”
Petner thanked the individuals and businesses who have already come forward to help rebuild the home in Freehold Borough.
“This is the most wonderful thing in the world. They miss their home so much. Everything they owned was in there. Gina thought about not going back at all in the beginning, but then changed her mind,” Petner said.
She said Ramos told her daughters, “We need to do this for Kaylee.”
She said Ramos is writing a book which will include the letters she writes every day to Kaylee about everyday life in the family. The title of the book is “Love Mommy.”
“It’s a healing process,” Petner said.
She said Ramos is currently working to change or to strengthen safety laws regarding children and fires.
In a brief conversation with Ramos, she said, “Every day is bad. The family is doing the best that they can do. I do what I can to try to get things done, working on laws and trying to make a new law regarding the safety of children regarding fires. I have already contacted Governor-elect Chris Christie and he is looking over all the data I gave him. I don’t want to make just a local law. I want this to go national.”
Any individual who would like to make a monetary donations may do so by making out a check to “In Memory of Kaylee” and mailing it to “In Memory of Kaylee,” c/o Berlin, 100 Upper Louisville Avenue, Neptune, NJ 07753. For more information, call 732-536-4752.