Couple’s Journey from Renovation to Ruin Spurs Community Support

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Courtesy the Pettrey’s
The Pettrey family’s long-awaited move to their newly renovated home in Forest Hills turned into a nightmare when a devastating fire consumed their future just days before they were set to move in.

MOHAMED FARGHALY

mfarghaly@queensledger.com

In the neighborhood of Forest Hills, a young family’s dreams were shattered when their newly renovated home went up in flames just days before they were set to move in. 

Emily and Luke Pettrey, who had eagerly awaited the arrival of their first child while working to create a cozy nest for their growing family, now find themselves grappling with the aftermath of a devastating fire that consumed what was supposed to be their future.

Luke Pettrey, who has resided in Forest Hills since 2001, shares that he and his wife met during the pandemic, with her hailing from Chicago. The couple has been married for nearly three years, previously renting in the Rego Park area before tragedy struck. 

The Pettreys’ journey began almost a year ago when they closed on their new coop in Forest Hills, excitedly preparing for the arrival of their first child. However, their plans took an unexpected turn when they discovered they were expecting a baby right around the time of closing.  They embarked on a journey to transform their house into a home, envisioning a bright future filled with love and laughter. From selecting furniture and appliances to painting the nursery, every detail was carefully chosen with their growing family in mind.

Despite the initial excitement, the ensuing months were marked by a chaotic whirlwind of renovations, contractor issues, and insurance complications as they worked tirelessly to ready their home for their growing family. With their baby due on Christmas Day, they found themselves staying with friends while awaiting the completion of the renovations. Finally, just as they were on the cusp of moving in, tragedy struck.

Their dreams were shattered on the morning of April 26, when Luke returned home from work to find a devastating text from their real estate agent containing images of their new apartment engulfed in flames, just days before they were scheduled to move in.  

“I get home from work, my wife and Son were already asleep, so I get in bed, and I get a text from our real estate agent who helped us close the place,” Luke said. “And it was pictures from the citizen app that said fire reported and there’s just like videos and pictures of essentially my apartment consumed in flames.”

Courtesy the Pettrey’s

The family goes through uncertainties and challenges as they navigate the aftermath and seek support from their community through a GoFundMe campaign.

The aftermath of the fire left the Pettreys grappling with numerous uncertainties, including the cause of the blaze and the extent of their insurance coverage. While initial assessments suggest that the fire may have been related to the ongoing renovations, the exact details remain unclear pending the completion of the fire marshal’s report, a process that could take up to four to six weeks. 

Despite ruling out intentional arson, the Pettreys still face a daunting array of challenges as they navigate the complex aftermath of the disaster. Issues with their home insurance policy, compounded by lapses in coverage, have added further complications to an already overwhelming situation. With no clear indication of liability, the Pettreys find themselves in a state of limbo, uncertain of how to proceed amidst mounting property losses and living expenses.

As they await clarity on their insurance claims, the Pettreys are forced to confront the harsh realities of their situation, grappling with the prospect of rebuilding their lives from the ground up while juggling the financial strain of mortgage payments and the recent arrival of their newborn child.

“It’s a surreal experience, it kind of felt like a movie, just watching it go up in flames three days before,” Luke said. “I think probably the biggest challenge is just figuring out how to not dwell on it, and just move forward and take whatever the next step is, and not try to figure it all out right now. But do the next thing we can do.”

Despite the heartbreaking setback, the Pettreys remain resilient, finding solace in their faith and the support of their community as they face the daunting task of rebuilding their lives from scratch.

Luke, who hopes to serve as a minister within the next year, sees a silver lining amidst the tragedy, recognizing how their faith has sustained them through the darkest of times.

“It’s been a blessing to my wife and I because we already see how God is using this experience in both of our lives,” Luke said. “And even in the challenges, we are doing good and we’re grateful.”

The Pettreys’ story has touched the hearts of many, inspiring an outpouring of generosity and compassion from friends, neighbors, and even strangers from Forest Hills to all the way in Chicago. A GoFundMe campaign, launched by Emily’s cousin, has garnered overwhelming support, with donations pouring in to help the Pettreys rebuild their lives and find shelter during this difficult period.

With the daunting prospect of rebuilding their home from scratch looming ahead, the funds raised will serve as a lifeline, helping to alleviate the immediate financial strain of living expenses and survival costs in the months ahead. However, Luke acknowledges that the true magnitude of their expenses, including extensive renovations and property losses, far exceeds what can be covered by the GoFundMe donations alone. Nevertheless, every contribution, no matter how small, brings them one step closer to reclaiming their lives and rebuilding together.

For those wishing to contribute or offer assistance in other ways, please visit their GoFundMe page at tinyurl.com/pettreyshelp. 


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