Rachel Van Noordt
Arts and Features Writer
She recalls when a phone, Nike shoes and the clothes on her back were all she had. On the coldest night of the year, Jan. 7, 2015, Bethany Spano and her family watched as their house lit up the neighborhood.
The firemen arrived. They could see the flames from a distance, but the water from their hoses turned to ice before it could reach the home. She said it only took two minutes to burn down.
Last summer, her family’s home was rebuilt on the same lot. Spano, a senior at UNC Asheville, said she is still getting used to the new layout. She had her old house memorized. In one night, she lost everything she owned. Still, she tells herself it could be worse.
“What got me through was knowing that people were there for me for whatever I needed and knowing that God had a plan,” Spano said.
Spano began playing soccer as a 5-year-old on a club team, and later played on her high school’s team. During a practice with her club, another player ran into Spano and she heard her knee pop. She had torn her anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL. After her surgery and recovery, she was back on the field.
“Each time you’re put out of soccer for six months,” Spano said.
The second time Spano tore her ACL, it was the spring before she was supposed to play forward for UNCA. A girl from another team hit her during a soccer game.
“It was a good game, but then a girl hit me from behind and my knee went one way and my body went the other way and it tore again,” Spano said.
This injury kept Spano from playing collegiate soccer her freshman year.
The summer before her sophomore year, she was in a game with a summer league. A foul play by another girl caused her third ACL tear. Spano would have to give up her sophomore soccer season as well.
With a nine-month recovery to complete, she still wanted to get back on the playing field. Her teammates said she always worked hard, even when things were tough.
“At first, it was very hard for her
to handle it,” said Katie Tuorto, a junior from King’s Park, New York. “I think now that she’s fully recovered and is back in the swing of it, she’s handling it very well.”
Spano said she does not look at her injuries as setbacks. If anything, they made her stronger. She said she appreciates the time she has on the soccer field even more.
Though Spano has been injury free for some time, she wears a lightweight leg brace every time she steps onto the field. She said it makes her feel more confident and stable. Her teammates say she can be heard squeaking down the field after the ball.
Despite the support of her friends and teammates, Spano admits it can still be hard for her when she is reminded of the fire. As Spano explains the details of that night, she forces laughter.
Joking has become her coping method.
Spano just happened to be sleeping downstairs in the house’s bonus room. A deep sleeper, she awoke to the carbon monoxide alarm. She discovered the fire near her laundry room and in a calm, shocked state went upstairs to tell her mother, explaining the house was on fire. Her mother woke up her sister. The flames reached the roof.
They all managed to escape unharmed. The fire marshals told her this was not always the case.
Her family stayed with their neighbors that night. The firefighters took all night to put out the flames. Spano said she and her sister went to Target the next morning for clothes; they did not have any.
It was difficult for Spano to see others buying items that she once owned. Her wants had become much simpler. She only wanted clothes.
“I don’t care if I have the next version of the newest phone or the newest computer,” Spano said. “It doesn’t matter because it’s just a thing.”
Spano’s Charlotte community was very supportive toward her family. They were able to stay with neighbors, their community collected a donation to help them rebuild their home, Bethany’s friends took her out to buy clothes and her soccer team provided her with soccer gear.
Bethany and her family moved from neighbor to neighbor until their house was finished.
From the fire that destroyed her family’s home less than a year ago, Spano kept one item: her Nike shoes. They sit in her closet, unworn. She simply wants to keep them with her.