A child's death is devastating.
Imagine, then, the pain of losing not one young son, but two. In a single hour.
Unfortunately, the Escabi family does not have to imagine such sorrow. They have just lived it.
Two days before Thanksgiving, they lost Thomas, 2, and Daniel,
3, in a fast-spreading fire that consumed their Seneca Street apartment in South Buffalo.
Not a single family memento was spared. Every stick of furniture was destroyed, all their clothing, the few meager Christmas presents Shelly Lynch and Felix Escabi had tucked away for their children -- everything.
In less than an hour, the Escabi family's world turned upside down.
"They were just beginning to get on their feet," Felix's mother, Mary Escabi, said sadly.
For the time being, she has asked the couple and her surviving grandchildren to stay with her. There are now 14 people crammed into Mrs. Escabi's little house.
Felix Escabi and Shelly Lynch, high school sweethearts who graduated from South Park, have been together for 10 years.
He works with his father, Felix Sr., at Fedco Automotive Components in Tonawanda. With one baby coming almost on the heels of another, the couple's life has not been easy. But they were making strides until the fire hit, according to Barbara Stein, who worked with the older Escabi children in the Community Action Organization's Headstart classroom program.
On the morning of the fire, clad in her bathrobe, Ms. Lynch was able to rescue two baby girls, Amanda and Nicole. But the fire was so smoky and spread so quickly that firefighters couldn't reach Thomas and Daniel in time to save them.
The couple's four other children -- Jessica, Brandy, Rebecca, and Sherry -- were already safe at school when the blaze broke out.
The six surviving Escabi children and their parents now have no home. The parents were born in South Buffalo and don't want to leave. They're eager to find a three-bedroom apartment somewhere in St. Teresa's parish. So far, their search through newspaper ads hasn't turned up a thing.
A home is what this family needs more than anything else.
The tragedy has baffled the couple's children.
"That's why I want to get them back into a house -- so there will be some sort of routine they will understand," Ms. Lynch says.
She speaks quietly and emphatically, and in between sentences, she breathes the deep sighs of someone who has cried too much lately.
Folks from as far away as Rochester have responded to the Escabis' tragedy with tokens of kindness, and the Seneca-Babcock Community Center has tried to funnel those gifts -- primarily clothing -- to the family.
"There are some really wonderful people out there, and I'd really like to thank them," says Ms. Lynch. Escabi, sitting in a chair nearby, nodded his agreement, adding that friends at work have been gracious, too.
Right now, though, the family still doesn't have many basic necessities such as eating utensils and dishes or sheets and pillows, not to mention Christmas decorations and toys -- to provide at least a bit of seasonal brightness for a family whose loss is so profound.