DONALD, Ore. (KOIN) — Danielle Arendt lost her little boy and his 2 cousins in a fire 10 years ago. Now, the same family is devastated by another fire, a fire that is making them grieve their loss all over again.
The 3-alarm fire that roared through a Southeast Portland storage facility on Monday destroyed a number of units. One of those units is where the family kept mementos of Alex, who was 4 at the time he died on Jan. 23, 2006.
That night, he was staying at his cousin’s house in Salem while his mom cared for the newest additions to the family — triplets.
But while he was there a fire broke out. His cousins died in the fire, and Alex died in his mother’s arms at the hospital.
“I think about him like, all the time,” Danielle told KOIN 6 News. “I mean my youngest daughter Jessica is a resemblance of him.”
She said Alex’s birthday was December 31. “We baked cookies, had pizza and light off fireworks,” she said.
There are things she specifically recalls about her little boy. “His smile, his way of weird words of cork means fork, ‘cream cream’ means ice cream, just being a happy boy.”
The night Alex died is something grandmother Angela Tena will never forget.
“The day we lost him, those triplets lost their mom,” Tena told KOIN 6 News, “and they lost their brother.” The pain was overwhelming.
The family knew this year — the 10th anniversary — would be especially tough. But they never imagined a second fire would take Alex away again.
Among the items gone forever are his car seat, his high chair, clothes and pajamas, family blankets and pictures.
“Some of his toys, a fire truck, a quilt literally (a) piece left, literally ’til there was nothing left of it after he died,” she said. “It was literally the last blanket he had slept with, and (his mom Danielle) slept with it until there was nothing left of it.”
It could be days before the family will be allowed to see inside the storage unit.
“But it’s not those things that keep him alive,” Tena said. “It’s those pictures of him we have, burned of him in our mind. Those last moments we shared with him that no fire can ever take away.”
In some small way, Alex’s grandmother hopes this second fire will help her daughter Danielle let go of some of the pain she’s carried for 10 years.
“I do think it’s time she puts that hurt, I mean, no one is ever going to forget him. None of us ever will. But the triplets need their mom.”
Tena said her prayer is that Danielle will “take some time and let herself heal.”