EXCLUSIVE: The tragic fire that killed Jeralyn Scibetta and her 14-year-old son, Daniel, brought the family close for the holidays. They’re also talking of rebuilding their Ridgefield home.
Son John Scibetta has returned to work, while his father, Ben, continues to go through procedures and therapy for his hand. Both were injured when they jumped from windows, along with John’s girlfriend, during the early-morning blaze on Nov. 17.
Together, the family is trying to cope in ways that would make “Jeri” and Daniel proud.
“These past holidays were rough for the family, for everyone,” Richard, the eldest son, told me. “Mom loved the holidays. She loved seeing the family together as one. This is what Mom would have wanted.”
Richard and I both were volunteer firefighters at the same time. We also both worked for the New Jersey Department of Corrections. Last month, I co-hosted a fundraiser for the family at the Dragonfly Bar & Marina in Carlstadt (photo above). An enormous number of friends attended to show their support and to try to help the Scibettas get back on their feet.
“It is so hard to put into words. ‘Thank you’s are an understatement,” said Richard, an Iraqi war veteran who now works with North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue.
“So many people, known and unknown, came together to support my family during this time,” he told me this week. “It shows me that we are not alone.”
Jeralyn Scibetta was a nurse at Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen. Young Daniel was an honors student and played in the town’s recreational football, baseball and basketball programs. John was graduated from William Paterson University last May.
The weekend fire happened quickly, apparently sparked by ashtray embers tossed into the trash, according to Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli. Police and firefighters who know the Scibettas were among the first responders.
Many of us will long remember Ben Scibetta at the funeral — surrounded by firefighters — placing flowers on the caskets while holding his son’s football helmet, adorned with signatures from his teammates.
We’ll also think of the words he told his surviving children: “They want us to be strong. They want us to do what we have to do.”
Family members are focusing on that, Richard told me.
“We all see the same doctor. We check in on each other. We get support from other family members and friends,” he said. “It’s a situation that no one should ever put in. We live for Mom and Danny.”
Toward that end, he said, his father “will be meeting with contractors and possibly plan to rebuild on top of the old foundation.”
The biggest thing “is not to be too overwhelmed,” Richard said. “We handle it day by day.”
Nothing could ever replace the lives of Jeralyn and Daniel. But their memories will always remain. So, too, will the pain of their loss.
A family that has helped so many in its church and community still needs our help. If you can, please send donations to:
147 Main Street
Andover, NJ 07821
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Frederick Porcaro of Bogota (in photo, right, with Richard Scibetta) works for the U.S. Marshals Service in New York City. He was a New Jersey State Corrections Officer from 2007-2009.
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