Tragedy strikes Manassas homeowners twice

It hasn’t been the best of times for Betty and Peter Anastasi.

Residents of 9253 Longstreet Court in Manassas for the past 38 years, the husband and wife first saw their brick dwelling struck by a bolt of lightning on May 27, leaving a gaping hole in their roof and an attic gutted by fire.

The couple expected the repair work to be finished within three or four months.

However, that is not the case and they are not sure they will be living in their home at all this year.

“It has been a very distressing time for both of us,” said Peter Anastasi, who has spent almost every minute of every day at the site, watching as one thing after another went wrong with efforts to get the house remodeled.

Luckily, the couple has found an unoccupied home to live in while the remodeling work continues on their house.

“But it’s not like being in our own home,” said Betty Anastasi.

Her husband nodded his head in agreement. “I haven’t had a good night’s sleep since the fire on Memorial Day … I just want to get this all behind us.”

The amount of damage is staggering.

To begin with, the couple lost all of the family treasures they stored in the attic.

“I particularly hated to lose an old doll house that I had spent hundreds of hours building it, piece by piece, shingle by shingle for my daughter Ellen when she was young,” said Pete Anastasi, also noting that he had saved a lot of toys he planned to pass on to his grandchild but were destroyed by the blaze.

While the loss of the items in the attic and being driven from their home was a big shock to the two, the worst was yet to come.

While work was being done on the attic and in the main part of the house, some of the family’s furniture — many irreplaceable family heirlooms — had been moved to the basement.

During the time the roof was being rebuilt, rain found its way through the house and accumulated in the basement. Mold set in the basement and spores formed.

The Anastasis were told that everything stored in the basement would have to be destroyed and that the entire walls and ceiling of the basement would have to be torn out and replaced.

“We were heartbroken as we watched workers (dressed in white protective suits with masks) begin to carry out all our cherished furniture and keepsakes and throw them in a Dumpster,” said Peter Anatasi.

The Anastasis were told by Servpro of Northern Prince William County Cleaning and Restoration Service that breathing in the spores could cause considerable health damage.

Peter Anastasi logged page after page of the items being carried to the trash bin: beds, lamps, chairs, dressers, humidifiers, wicker furniture, tea carts, school chairs, old milk cans, flower arrangements, an antique flax wheel, card tables and chairs, toys and games. He said he hopes he will be reimbursed by his insurance company for the loss.

While the loss of these items was hard to take, bidding adieu to old keepsakes — such as the couple’s wedding picture, old photos of family gatherings and a collection of books that Peter Anastasi helped write and photograph while working with the Department of Fish and Wildlife Service — was particularly devastating.

Being an avid outdoorsman, he also lost 20 of his prized fishing rods and reels and shotguns he had collected through the years.

He particularly hated to see an antique wooden ice box go.

“I helped a friend restore his house when it was flooded and he gave me the ice box, saved in the flood, as a thank you for my work. Now it’s ironic, that I am parting with it because of the spores. This is what can happen if mold is not controlled,” he said.

Work on the other parts of the house haven’t exactly been going as planned. Studs are the only things visible on the main floor. Some items, such as their clothes, had been removed right after the fire and were placed in storage after being cleaned of the smoke smell.

A new roof was put on the house, but city inspectors said it was not installed to code and this week had to be ripped off and replaced. Kitchen cabinets that were stored in the basement also were damaged.

Also lost were Peter Anastasi’s collection of hunting trophies, such as deer and antelope antlers, and a collection of rare paintings he had collected through the years.

He had helped to develop the nationwide duck stamp program, and many of the stamps were turned into paintings.

“I enjoyed donating them to the Prince William Duck Limited group as a fund-raiser … but that won’t happen anymore,” he said.

Staff writer Bennie Scarton Jr. can be reached at (703) 368-3101, Ext. 125.

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