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Friends Rally to Help EMT After Fire Destroys Home

By Alissa Ambrose | May 21, 2012 11:27am
Harlan Gray, his wife Liz, and their three daughters. May 21, 2012.
Harlan Gray, his wife Liz, and their three daughters. May 21, 2012.
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Gray Family

BROOKLYN — It's not unusual for Harlan Gray to spend more than 60 hours a week helping others — in fact, it's his job.

Gray, 32, is an emergency medical technician who has dedicated the past eight years to helping those in need.

But a fire that devastated their home has put Gray and his family in need themselves — and those he has touched are not willing to let them handle it alone.

On May 4, the South Plainfield, N.J. home that Gray shares with his wife Liz and their three young daughters was destroyed.

The stress sent Harlan, a cancer survivor who suffers from diabetes, to the hospital for days. Since his release, he and his family have been staying in a Holiday Inn while they search for a rental.

"It's very hard because Harlan does try to take care of everyone else," said Adam Stern, a friend and fellow EMT.

"He doesn't really want to accept help. But we are not letting him do that."

Stern and Gray have known each other for more than 10 years, ever since they worked together in a Midwood Duane Reade. The Brooklyn natives decided to become EMTs at the same time.

They started off as volunteers with the Flatlands Ambulance Corps in Brooklyn, and were soon both hired at Maimonides Medical Center.

Gray now works full-time at Maimonides and puts in 16-24 hours a week at his second job at Lutheran Medical Center. Until recently, he continued to work as a volunteer at Flatlands in his free time.

A big part of what motivates Gray to work so hard is his family. He and his wife Liz, who were once high-school sweethearts and later best friends, have been married for three years. Together, they are raising their three daughters — two from Liz’s previous marriage and a 16-month-old born just after Gray’s recovery from cancer.

They moved to New Jersey to give the kids something that isn't found in Brooklyn — a house, complete with grassy yard and quiet streets. 

Gray described the first time he and Liz saw the house three years ago. “Her eyes lit up,” he said.

Liz and the girls were outside playing in their backyard when the fire, which was most likely caused by an electrical malfunction, started. No one was injured, but the home’s interior and everything inside was completely destroyed.

Since then the family has been staying in a single room at a Holiday Inn.

Stern and other friends and community members have gathered clothes for the children and the website BMRbreakingnews.com has put up a special fundraising page for the Gray family.

To contribute, please visit: http://www.bmrbreakingnews.com/HarlanGray.htm