by Kate Helander
On Nov. 27, WHS History Teacher Mr. Enrico Basso and his wife, Ms. Marissa Basso, suffered from a fire in the house they were renting. While they were able to escape unharmed, a significant amount of damage was caused to their home on Rahway Avenue. Following this, the WHS community offered an outpouring of support that Basso described as “overwhelming.”
“You never think it could happen to you. It’s jarring,” Basso said. “We’re doing well, thank God we’re okay. It could have been a lot worse.”
According to Basso, the fire broke out while he, his wife and his sister were watching a movie and eating cheesecake. The cause of the fire was undetected problems with his chimney. Upon realizing that the house was filling with smoke, Basso used a fire extinguisher to put out the fire in the fireplace, only to run upstairs to find that his roof was on fire. While the fire department was able to eventually stop the blaze, the damage to the Bassos’ home is too severe to continue living in it. Basso and his wife have moved in with his mother in Colonia until their home can be repaired. Basso estimates that he and his wife will be able to move back to their home anywhere from four to five months up to as long as a year and a half.
The WHS community was quick to rally around Basso during this difficult time. On the very same night that the fire broke out, senior and former student of Basso, Dan Criscuolo, launched a GoFundMe page after seeing the flames while driving by Basso’s home as he was delivering pizzas. Criscuolo didn’t come up with this idea alone: Seniors Ethan Prevoznak, Sam Brown and Liam Heinbokel also assisted in this effort to help Basso and his family. Criscuolo, Prevoznak, Brown and Heinbokel all had Basso as their United States History 2 teacher their junior year, and became very close with him.
The page had an original goal of raising $2,000 in order to help cover the expenses of repairing Basso’s home, as well as replacing the items he lost due to smoke damage. As of Dec. 8, the page had raised $8,120, contributed by 160 donors. The page is still continuing to raise donations.
“We surpassed $2,000 in the first 24 hours,” said Prevoznak. “When we set the goal we even thought that would be a stretch, but now seeing everyone come together to support him, we can see that anything is possible.” Heinbokel added: “Westfield is a very close-knit community and has always helped its fellow residents get through rough patches in their lives. This time is certainly no exception.”
Said Prevoznak, “Mr. Basso was not only one of my favorite teachers of the year, but for my whole high school career.” Although this is only Basso’s second year at WHS, the impact that he has had on his students continues outside of the classroom. The boys all say that they have maintained a relationship with Basso this year despite no longer having him as a teacher by frequently visiting him after school.
“Mr. Basso was one of the teachers who really clicked with me,” said Heinbokel “Despite our age difference, he was a teacher who seemed to be able to relate with his students.” The WHS community has joined together in a way that the boys and Basso did not expect. “It truly amazes me how willing people have been to give to someone in need,” said Heinbokel.