HAMILTON: “My Dog Died in the Fire – We Lost Everything”

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By: Ken Hamilton

“My house burned down this morning,” beautician JoAnne Abbo-Bradley later wrote on her Facebook page on November 24th, 2019.  “My dog died in the fire. We lost everything,” she said.

Could there have been an uglier event to have happened that Sunday morning? You might be surprised in how it all ended – so far.

JoAnne knows beauty.  Perhaps that fire and the death of the family “shelter” dog certainly was no way to close out a Thanksgiving weekend; however, what followed would certainly make that Thanksgiving of 2019 one that would rival the mixed-emotions of the first thanksgiving of November of 1621, some 400-years earlier, with the Pilgrims on the Plymouth Plantation of Massachusetts.  

The friends and neighbors of the Bradley family, along with the American Red Cross, were there as if they all were the Wampanoag Indians who joined the Pilgrims in love and fellowship. As bad as the City of Niagara Falls may seem, the individuals of this city are par excellent.

Geoff Jenkins, the owner of the Hyde Park Laundromat pointed that out to me shortly after it opened. The Louisiana-born, San Franciscan had lived in many places in the States, and currently is living in NYC said that he was amazed at how many basket auctions that he had heard of among our citizens. He noted that we Niagarans complained a lot about things in the city, but were always willing to help each other out in their hours of need.


JoAnne’s dog that perished in the fire.


Those are things that most of us don’t notice, as they are so common that we don’t give ourselves the massive amounts of credit that we should.

Prior to that, JoAnne had often been critical of the city – remember, there is a difference between “the city” and its “citizens.” In fact, back in 2012 two of her neighbors and she filed a lawsuit against the city of Niagara Falls as a result of a likely Love Canal leak that may have impacted where they lived in their Black Rock neighborhood of LaSalle, near the former Love Canal landfill. The alleged incursion happened as a result of a sewer excavation on Colvin Boulevard near 90th Street.

 Love Canal, and the demise of the manufacturing that occurred during its filling, are both legendary Niagara Falls events.  Much of the city has followed suit. Though beat-up by recent events, the Bradley family is just as up-beat as they can possibly be.

Gary Bradley wrote that, “This is a forced new beginning. We’re getting there.”

And maybe the city can follow suit with the spirit of the Bradleys.

“The abode…..it’s not the Taj Mahal,” Gary continued. “but its HOME. Gas, electric are on. Cable/internet in a day or two. Thanks again to everyone who donated so we can actually live and have the basic amenities. Love you all!!!”

While cable and internet may not seem to be a necessity, it sure are indicative of a state of normality; and after losing everything, normality is progress.

JoAnne was extremely thrilled by the service that the Red Cross provided her. In a telephone conversation with the Buffalo and Western NY American Red Cross Chapter Communications Director Jay Bonafede, he said that his organization makes every effort to go “above and beyond” to individuals and families, providing “comfort and hope in the time of emergencies and disasters.” He said that what happened to the Bradley family was indeed an emergency and a disaster.

In no attempt to take anything away from the seriousness of what happened to the Bradley family, it should be noted that the American Red Cross has long been a friend to the American servicemembers.

From the time of Clara Barton and her care for the wounded soldiers of the American Civil War, through our many battles and the stretches of peacetime activity, the Red Cross has been there, doing things such as sending more than 25-million parcels to Allied Prisoners of War during World War II, through not only establishing communications between soldiers and their families during emergencies at home and abroad, but also to providing emergency financial assistance for travel; and with other military aid societies, even have provided necessary burial funds for loved ones. When my brother, also a sailor, was critically-injured in an automobile accident while being transferred from New London CT to Long Beach CA, it was the Red Cross that alerted me to the situation so that I could go home during the emergency. 

I do thank all of those whom, from time to time, thanks me for my military service; but what would be more appreciated is when you thank and support the American Red Cross for all that they do – here at home for our civilian population during both mass and personal disasters and emergencies, as they have done for the Bradley family and scores of others every year, and for our far-flung forces wherever they (we) serve.

As we Niagarans don’t give enough credit to ourselves for how we help each other out, we certainly don’t give enough to the American Red Cross for all that they do to help everyone out. You can reach your local Western New York Chapter at 716-886-7500 and personally thank those who serve –”those who serve” — with a contribution to continue to do the good work for your neighbors and YOU.

Keep the beauty and hope in our lives – as JoAnne would do.


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