MILTON, Fla. (WKRG) — A local man is grieving after he lost his daughter and grandson to a fire in Jacksonville.
Patrick Fitzgerald and his wife Amy had just arrived home in Milton from Louisiana after visiting family for Christmas when they got the call no one is prepared for.
“It’s something I don’t want my worst enemy to go through,” Patrick said. “It’s horrible. That’s my only child, my only grandson, so it’s rough.”
Patrick’s daughter, Alexis Fitzgerald, was taken to a hospital in Gainesville where she died after her apartment caught on fire the day after Christmas in Jacksonville. Her son, 4-year-old Rozae, was pronounced dead on the scene.
“We didn’t even unpack from Louisiana,” he said. “We threw our bags back in the car and hauled butt down to Gainesville. Got there about 3:30 in the morning.”
Alexis grew up in Milton and moved away a few years ago.
“She was my mini-me,” Patrick said. “She was like me in a female version. A joker, had a temper like her dad. I raised her since she was young. I was a single father most of her life.”
Some of Alexis’ organs were donated to others. Nurses, doctors and her family lined the hallways of the hospital for what’s called an “honor walk” before the family said their final goodbyes. They played her heartbeat on the speakers. They later found out her heart was successfully transplanted.
“Part of me is like oh my daughter’s heart is still beating in somebody else,” he said. “It gives you a little bit of comfort, not 100 percent, but it gives you a little bit knowing she still lives on in somebody else.”
Patrick is the president of the Krewe of Airship Pirates. He’s used to helping others with fundraisers and disaster relief but now he finds himself in need of help.
“We don’t just party on a Mardi Gras float,” he said. “We do community work and we’ve been doing it for years and this time, we’re in need which feels strange to be on this side of it. It’s overwhelming but it’s really heartwarming that we have this many people who care about us.”
Mardi Gras krewes are organizing a benefit concert Sunday, Jan. 8 at The Sandshaker on Pensacola Beach to help the Fitzgerald family pay for funeral expenses. It starts at noon and ends at 10 p.m. They have also collected more than $14,000 so far through an online fundraiser.