I was called down to the Principal's office again. What the hell did I do this time? I saw my brother was also summoned, so it wasn't likely anything we did. We didn't socialize at school. It turned out that there was a "little fire" at our building, as the Principal described it.
I remember worrying about Baggy, our cat, all afternoon. Mom was at work until 5 PM, just a few blocks away from my school, and Dad was in Freeport, teaching HS English.
As it turned out, there was a 4 alarm fire at the Vendome (48 W. 73rd St), started by a grease fire from the bar/restaurant on the ground floor. All but 5 apartments of the seven-floor building (6 apts. per floor.) were uninhabitable. All of the B apartments were spared, as in 3B (our apt.), 4B, etc. Baggy was fine, too.
When I finally got home, the walls of both adjoining apartments were totally ripped out, and you could see into the living rooms. Pink insulation littered the hallway. It was surreal. When we got to our apt, at the end of the hall, it was amazing to see so little smoke damage inside.
Around 4 or 5 PM, a channel 7 Eyewitless news crew came around to film a report. The guy they sent had long hair, and was a rising star of local news at the time, none other than GERALDO RIVERA! He made the report from our upstairs neighbor's apartment, 5 or 7B.
This is one of my earlier Vendome stories, so I was pretty young. GERALDO did his report, and when they put the camera on me and my brother, I was smiling and laughing, so I looked down. We saw it rebroadcasted on the late news, at 11. He didn't ask us any questions, someone just said "get a shot of the kids!"
I still laugh at that memory, but this was a great tragedy, though no lives were lost. At that age, I was just happy that my cat was OK, and that we still had a place to live.