Missing Engagement Ring Found In Apartment's Charred Rubble

LORAIN, Ohio (AP) - After fire destroyed an apartment complex and left about 275 searching for new homes, one man and his brother searched charred rubble for an engagement ring.

Tod Schlitter has given Rebecca Iammarino her ring, after searching nearly two hours Wednesday in the remains of Fairway Manor Apartments. He also found the rings that will be their wedding bands.

"Those rings gave me hope," said Iammarino, 24. "I know it's just material, but those, they were symbolic to me."

The ring boxes were smashed and half open, but the rings were undamaged.

"I found the wedding bands first," said Schlitter, 21. "My brother was in a 10-foot hole, and I started digging by him and found the ring."

The rings are about all that's left.

What used to be their home before the Saturday morning blaze is now ash and rubble. About 100 apartments were destroyed, but no one was injured.

"I was devastated. I felt like my life was going up in those flames. You watch your life blow up in front of you, and you've got to rebuild after that," said Iammarino.

Personal belongings were in large piles mixed with building parts and ashes.

"It looked like a bomb hit it," said Mark Schlitter, 19, who helped with the search.

Iammarino and Schlitter said they still plan to marry July 19, but will stay with family until they get back on their feet.

"We're going to save up some money before we move out," Schlitter said. "I think when we move this time, we're going to be looking for a house. A home with homeowners insurance."

Iammarino's son, Victor, turned 3 Monday, and they were planning to have his party that day. Schlitter was wrapping gifts when he heard firefighters banging on doors, alerting them to get out.

At least finding the ring brought some relief, Schlitter said.

Entering rubble piles, which can have hidden pits or sharp edges, "is really not something recommended to do," Lorain Assistant Fire Chief Randy Hupp said Friday. He was not aware of Schlitter's search.

Iammarino said she's going to get her ring inspected before wearing it.

"I'm going to get it cleaned and make sure the prongs can hold in the diamond before I wear it and lose that, too," she said with a laugh.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)