NEW HAVEN - An Amity High School teacher whose home in Orange was destroyed by a fire is amazed and overwhelmed that the school community has rallied around him to help.
Robert Catalde says he always tells his students not to be afraid of the world because there's a lot of good in it. He says he was proven right after he and his wife lost nearly everything.
Catalde woke up in the hospital on the morning of Sept. 12. He had been admitted for smoke inhalation after his Glenbrook Road home went up in flames the night before.
The flames had destroyed nearly all they owned -- 95 percent of everything, he estimates.
Catalde, who has taught history at Amity for 15 years and went to school there himself, says the phone rang that morning at 7 a.m. It was the principal calling.
"She said, 'I just want you to know one thing this morning -- the entire Amity community is going to rally behind you,'" Catalde recalls. "And that was that ray of light."
The teacher and his wife had insurance for their home's structure, but not anything inside it or on relocation expenses. They also still have to pay their mortgage. That's where his colleagues at Amity have stepped in.
Catalde says teachers in the social studies department gave him a large gift card for immediate needs, then set up a GoFundMe account to help the couple get by.
Catalde says the response from students both past and present has been especially heartwarming. He's received donations and messages from kids he taught years ago, and the feeling is amazing, and "absolutely overwhelming."
The students at Amity are putting together a benefit talent show for him, and the class of '74 is also holding a fundraiser at the Orange Ale House next month for the cause.
Catalde estimates it will take eight or nine months to rebuild his house.