Hollie Legendre was delivering her eulogy at her sister’s memorial service last weekend when her phone rang. It was her landlord telling her the Bangor apartment she shared with her fiance, his two children part time and their two cats was on fire.
In an instant, Legendre, 26, and Charlie Butera, 37, of Bangor found themselves picking up the pieces of their life three weeks before their wedding day. Legendre said she lost nearly everything in the fire, including her two cats, laptop, guitar and music equipment she needs to perform with Butera in their acoustic duo, Charlie and Hollie.
But the couple discovered their wedding rings survived, which Legendre saw as a sign that she and Butera should move ahead with their Oct. 7 wedding.
To help them get back on their feet, friends of the couple established a fundraiser on Facebook with a $30,000 goal. Some 78 people had donated more than $5,000 as of Tuesday afternoon.
“Charlie and I can’t thank everyone enough for the love and support they’ve offered so far,” Legendre said. “It’s overwhelming and nice to know we’re so loved and we’re not alone. It shows we have such an amazing community and that, through the rubble, we will rise.”
The couple are now living with friends in Hermon while they look for a new place to live.
The fire broke out around 10:40 a.m. on Saturday and quickly spread to the four apartment units in the building, according to Bangor Assistant Fire Chief Andrew Emery. Though firefighters didn’t know what caused the fire or where it started, all four units were damaged, and the blaze displaced all 10 people living in the building.
The apartment building sits on the corner of Charles and Union streets in Bangor and covers 64 and 66 Charles St. and 345 and 347 Union St.
Some tenants were home when the fire broke out, but all escaped without injury. Firefighters rescued several cats in the units, though the Legendre and Butera’s two cats didn’t make it.
“Mentally, I wasn’t in a good space before the fire because I lost my only sister who was everything to me, and now I’ve lost everything else,” Legendre said. “I lost my home, my things, my cats, who weren’t just cats, they were my emotional support animals. At this point, I’m hoping to get some help from the community financially to build my life again while trying to find a place to live.”
The couple didn’t have renters insurance on the apartment, according to Legendre.
Despite losing her home, cats, sister and most of her belongings in a matter of weeks, Legendre said the couple are still planning to get married on Oct. 7. Legendre’s wedding dress and Butera’s tuxedo remained unscathed, as neither was in the apartment at the time of the fire.
When Legendre and Butera arrived at the apartment as fire crews finished extinguishing the blaze, Legendre said she begged a firefighter to go into her kitchen to look for two small boxes containing the couple’s wedding bands.
“The kitchen was a total loss, but the firefighter was able to find the boxes with the wedding bands,” she said. “Mine had a little bit of heat damage, but my fiance’s was left totally unscathed. I think that’s a sign that he and I need to get married as a symbol of perseverance.”
The couple met at Husson University where Butera worked at a coffee shop where Legendre, who grew up in Mount Vernon, went to get coffee every morning. They soon bonded over a mutual love of music and became close friends for five years before beginning a romantic relationship.