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Mary Beenken, mbeenken@forumcomm.com, Published November 07 2010

‘Love endures all’: Galleria couple find mementos intact

When Emily and Michael Krein saw their apartment at the Galleria On 42nd in south Fargo go up in flames nearly three weeks ago, they didn’t expect to see most of their possessions again. And they didn’t think the few things that did survive the fire would symbolize the most important event in their lives.

“Everything we got back had some relation to our marriage, our relationship,” Emily Krein said.

The Kreins returned to the Galleria On 42nd apartments the day after the Oct. 11 fire to reclaim their vehicle. There, they were informed that a firefighter could search their third-floor apartment for important items.

“I didn’t know there would be anything to save, so you’re put on the spot kind of,” Emily Krein said.

Firefighter Chris Rasmussen conducted the search in the Kreins’ apartment. He said there wasn’t much left when he arrived.

“It was located on the third floor, so it was heavily damaged,” he said.

The only item Emily Krein asked for was a crystal vase her mother gave her at her bridal shower. But when Rasmussen got into the apartment, he saw there was more that could be salvaged. So then the Kreins began asking for items from their wedding.

“They were just really concerned about their wedding stuff,” Rasmussen said. “It kind of made me want to find it.”

He returned to the apartment several times. With each trip, an eerie pattern began to emerge: Of everything the Kreins asked Rasmussen to search for, the items that actually survived were reminders of their wedding.

Michael’s wedding ring, as well as a watch and music box they gave each other on their wedding day, were found covered in ash but undamaged. Rasmussen also recovered a clock with their wedding picture in it, their wedding photo album, Emily’s wedding dress and their framed marriage certificate.

“He made about six or seven trips up and down those stairs that day for us,” Emily Krein said.

Rasmussen said most people who returned to their apartments asked for essentials, such as credit cards and keys. But he was touched by the personal nature of the Kreins’ requests.

“A young couple like that asking for wedding things was kind of moving,” he said.

The Kreins were not allowed to enter the apartment until nearly a week later. When they did, they found their former home nearly destroyed.

“The entire ceiling drooped so low, you had to duck under it,” Emily Krein said. “Everything was broken. Things had flown from room to room. … It was pretty devastating.”

Michael Krein said that, at the time of the fire, he didn’t think the entire building would be so ruined.

“I was in shock,” he said. “I didn’t think it would spread.”

The Kreins did manage to find a few more items that could be saved: a cedar chest given to them on their wedding day and a plastic tote full of wedding mementos.

“I was pretty sure the things in there would be ruined, and they weren’t,” Emily Krein said. “Everything else was gone.”

She said that while it has been difficult to cope with their loss, the items saved from their apartment are a good reminder of what matters most to them.

“It felt like a sign,” she said. “Love endures all.”

Rasmussen said despite the fact that the Kreins lost most of their property, they still fared better than most third-floor residents. Many of their neighbors were left with nothing.

“They were definitely one of the lucky ones,” he said.

Emily Krein also said the fire revealed another blessing in their life: the support of the people around them. Since the fire, the Kreins have received dozens of donations and offers of help from their friends, family and co-workers.

“They’ve just been wonderful,” she said. “You feel so humbled and so lucky.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mary Beenken at (701) 235-7311