(L-R) Carlton Willis and Victor Oteri

(L-R) Carlton Willis and Victor Oteri

Carlton Willis and Victor Oteri are life partners who were living in a mobile home at Journey’s End Mobile Home Park when the fire occurred. Their home was spared but at the time of the interview they hadn’t gained access to the property since the fire. They have since relocated their mobile home.

Carlton Willis: He’s 88, and I’m 85.

Victor Oteri: I’ll be 89 in January if I make it. January 27th. [His birthday is] June 27th. [We both have the] middle initial "A". [Both]: Green eyes, green eyes.

VO: We do have a little similarity.

CW: People ask us all the time [both], “are you brothers?” [laughs]

VO: We’ve been together going on 61 years. Our age and our health — that's why we sold the ranch and came to Journey’s End.

CW: We have Kmart, Trader Joe's, Lucky's, Safeway. Our bank is in Safeway.

VO: Everything is centrally located. And there's even bus service right out the door. What more could you ask for?

[A neighbor] banged on our door and got us out. We had ten minutes to leave. Otherwise we’d be toast. We left at about 3:45 am, on the morning of the 9th. 
CW: I was asleep. I didn't want to get up. 
VO: I said, “you’ve got to get your butt out of the bed! Let’s get going!” We didn't know what was going on. The Hilton was burning. The fire was coming toward us. We had a huge hedge about 8-9 feet tall, and it was burning as we left.

CW: Our insurance company so far has just been fabulous.

“To see the total devastation and destruction is heartbreaking! It just makes you want to sit down and cry your heart out. You don’t know these people but they’re human beings!”
— Victor Oteri

VO: We're concerned about what's going to happen to the park. There were 160 units; twenty are still standing. What's going to happen to those twenty homes? Are they going to rebuild the park? Sell it? Everybody's in limbo. And they're not telling us anything. Neither the owner nor the park management was decent enough to be there at the meeting that was arranged through the mayor's office. And they had all these people telling us we can't get in. We know we can't get in! But what's the future going to offer? They're dealing with people's lives! 
VO: There's no housing, especially for seniors! What'll they do, just throw us out?

CW: It looks like what we're gonna have to do is get another lot somewhere [in another] mobile park and have our home moved.

VO: Our lives are changed forever. It’s very depressing. And, not very nice, not knowing what’s going to happen.

CW: We live a very structured life.

VO: We know what we're going to do today. We know what we're going to do tomorrow.

CW: We got everything scheduled. And when it’s interrupted, I’m interrupted. And now my whole life has been interrupted! And it is the same for everyone.

We really, truly would like to go back [to the mobile home park]. But as they say in New Orleans, “I don’t see it in the chords.” You know at 88 and 85, to go through this, it’s a little tough! I've never been through anything like this. It's just the way life is. It's something we have to live with. We have no choice! As they say in Italian, "Questa niente." “This or nothing.”