Arisen in the Heights | Manhattan Times

Story by Sherry Mazzocchi

Franck De Las Mercedes - Washington Heights

“If life gives you ashes, sketch,” says artist Franck De Las Mercedes. (Photo: S. Mazzocchi)

They heard the alarms. Franck De Las Mercedes and his wife Nicola figured it was probably a neighbor burning breakfast. He kissed her goodbye and she left for work. A moment later he heard her scream.

The building was on fire.

His wife ran back inside to get her husband and bang on neighbors’ doors. He was still in his pajamas. He fumbled into clothes as the smoke took on a life of its own.

“It was a heavy, snakelike thing,” he said. “It just took over.”

Once outside, the windows started to pop. Only minutes later, the entire Weehawken rowhouse apartment building was engulfed in flames.

Everything they owned, including all of De Las Mercedes’ paintings, drawings and other work, was completely gone. The building was demolished the next day. It was the beginning of 2014 and suddenly they had nothing.

They looked at more than 30 apartments before moving to Washington Heights.

Read more: Arisen in the Heights | Manhattan Times

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