Guest Column: Public disaster vs. personal disaster

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-113338407111410.jpg’, ‘Photo by Gary Sciortino’, ‘The Blackstone Apartments, at the corner of Crosby Street and Smith Avenue, was ordered “sealed" by the Illinois EPA allegedly because of an asbestos problem during construction repairs to the building.’);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-113338414813186.jpg’, ‘Photo by Janean Lameyer’, ‘Gary Sciortino stands in front of the Blackstone Apartments, at the corner of Crosby Street and Smith Avenue, after all of the tenants were ordered to evacuate within 20 minutes of the building being “sealed" by the Illinois EPA under the threat of arrest.’);

Friday, Nov. 18, I became an “evacuee.” One of those things that happens to someone else remote from a person that usually doesn’t affect him. Something that happens to someone else but not to you.

I had the misfortune of living in the apartment building known as “The Blackstone Apartments” at the corner of Crosby Street and Smith Avenue. It’s a few blocks northwest of SwedishAmerican Hospital, two blocks east of Jackson School and one block west of the intersection of Crosby and Prospect streets. If you live in Rockford, you’ve probably driven by it many times.

It’s easy to dismiss disasters like hurricanes or train wrecks because they affect someone else somewhere else. You read about it or see it on television and go on with your life. But when disaster knocks at your door, as happened to me, it’s hard to go on as if nothing happened.

My girlfriend, Janean Lameyer, and I were summarily ejected from my basement apartment of six years with only a few clothes, personal effects and a cat. The EPA put a “seal order” on the building because of an asbestos problem caused by the landlord due to construction repairs to the building. We had gotten a lot of stuff I had gotten ready to go, but were threatened by arrest by Rockford police if we went back in one more time to get anything.

We thought of all the necessities left behind after leaving. Think about it, what do you really need? Inadvertently, we left behind my medication and Janean’s asthma inhaler. Two of my cats hid during the chaos and were sealed in the building. Half of the uniforms I needed to go to work the following night got left behind. I had the coats but not the shirt, pants, boots, or airport security badge.

The next day, we managed to get back in to get the cats, the medication, uniforms, and other essentials while EPA officials waited impatiently outside. It’s painful to live without our belongings because we keep needing stuff that’s still sealed in the building. We have to buy everything new to replace stuff we don’t have that had been left in the other place.

Hurry! Get your essential belongings together. You’ve got 20 minutes. Go! It can happen to you!

Gary D. Sciortino is a local resident.

From the Nov. 30-Dec. 6, 2005, issue

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