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Perspective: How Do We Make Sense of Fire Tragedy?

Heroic efforts define the character of our community

Gwinnett Fire spokesman Tommy Rutledge said what many are probably thinking this weekend.

At the end of a Friday press conference in front of the burned-out Lilburn home that was fueled by methamphetamine chemicals and resulted in the deaths of three young children, Rutledge called 1197 Spring Mill Drive “a typical home in a typical neighborhood … with a tragic incident.”

The house was the scene of a Thursday afternoon fire, from which 18-month-old Stacy Brito, 3-year-old Ivan Guevara and 4-year-old Isaac Guevara died from burn and smoke inhalation injuries. .

Police have filed murder and arson charges on Ivan Gonzalez, 26, who was not in custody as of early Saturday afternoon. Officials are concerned that Gonzalez may be trying to flee the country.

The mother, Neibi Brito, was arrested and charged with drug trafficking. According to a WSB-TV report, she was denied bond in her first court appearance Saturday. She is being held in the Gwinnett County Jail. 

It is unclear the relationship between Gonzalez and Brito.

At the same press conference, Gwinnett Police spokesman Jake Smith said, “The lack of responsibility is disappointing,” regarding the fact that adults would be involved in such an activity in close proximity to children.

It’s hard to make sense of what happened in the Spring Mill subdivision, smack dab in the middle of a vibrant residential area known for its community involvement, active lifestyle and great schools. This meth lab was located a short walk from the Mountain Park park, library and elementary school.

Thursday it was the scene of chaos, a quarter-mile from where kids learn baseball and softball, adults play tennis and jog on trails and families enjoy time out of the house.

A friend of mine who works for CNN lives in Spring Mill and called the case “incredible.” Another friend, who says she takes her kids to the Mountain Park Park, worried about safety: “He probably did his drug deals right there in the parking lot.” Yet another said, “I’m so sick about it all.”

There are some who will think of this horrible incident as a reflection of the change that Lilburn and Gwinnett County have seen the past two decades. We have changed, for sure, but the character our community should never be defined only by the actions of bad people.

You can look at the fatal fire and find some good. The actions of the two teenagers and the man who risked their own lives to pull the children out of the house from a second-floor window was nothing short of heroic.  . Those children would never have had a chance to survive without their efforts. Somebody was there for them in the end.

The heroes define our community and show that hope is not all gone in the face of tragedy.

Natalie Giddens February 19, 2011 at 11:58 PM
Does anyone know the identity of the teenagers? Perhaps they want their act to remain anonymous, but I'd love to be able to thank them by name.
Scott Bernarde February 20, 2011 at 01:10 AM
Gwinnett Daily Post's Tyler Estep wrote a very nice story on the teens (Joshua Kaste and Conor Walsh) and their experience. You can read it at www.gwinnettdailypost.com.
Scott Bernarde February 20, 2011 at 01:11 AM
Here's a better link. http://bit.ly/dEle9z
Natalie Giddens February 20, 2011 at 07:12 PM
Thanks Scott. Those boys are impressive individuals.
Allison Rodgers February 22, 2011 at 07:34 PM
I don't want other counties to think that Gwinnett is bad. I have grown up here, went to Trickum Middle and Parkview High. I live in the City of Duluth now and my son has attended Berkeley Lake, Duluth Middle and now he is at Duluth High school. Gwinnett is not bad! You can't ask for a better school system and yes, there are residents who do take pride in our community and do get involved! People, wake up, we have got to make sure that our community stays strong and gets rid of people like this. Do not be afraid to call the police if you see something susipicious! Get involved. Go to the crime prevention meeting in Lilburn and show these thugs, drug dealers and anyone else who tries to bring their crap in that Gwinnett County is not going to put up with it!

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