- Associated Press - Friday, October 2, 2015

COLUMBIA, Md. (AP) - Over the course of a 41-year career as a math educator, Honi Bamberger amassed a wealth of textbooks and teaching supplies.

It was those resources that Bamberger, whose home was among those destroyed by a three-alarm fire in Columbia’s Clary’s Forest neighborhood last week, hoped to recover when she returned to the site a day later.

The fire, set off by an explosion around sundown on Sept. 23, damaged six townhouses, injured two people and caused an estimated $2 million in damage. Officials are still investigating the cause, though they suspect the blast was triggered by a gas leak.

Bamberger was out on a walk when the explosion went off. She had left everything, even her purse, in the house where she’d lived for the past 21 years.

When the fire was finally extinguished and firefighters allowed her to search for belongings, what remained was a jumbled rubble heap. While she was able to recover some family memorabilia, such as baby teeth, silverware and a few photos, the math books were gone.

“Everything was damaged, soaking wet, everything stunk,” said Bamberger’s daughter, Stephanie Bamberger, who accompanied her mother to salvage items from the remains of the house.

While insurance will pay for her clothes and other items to be replaced, “her work, which is really what drives her, is not replaceable by an insurance company,” Stephanie Bamberger said.

Bamberger decided to create a page on the online fundraising site GoFundMe to help rebuild her mother’s collection of teaching materials.

In just four days, more than 80 people have contributed nearly $6,000.

Bamberger said she first started the site “for management purposes,” as calls, emails and Facebook messages began to pour in from concerned family, friends, colleagues and students in the days after the fire.

She didn’t expect to see such an overwhelming response.

Former colleagues and students have shared the page through social media and contributed donations. Several have left comments about Honi Bamberger’s impact as an educator on the GoFundMe site. Bamberger, who started her career as an elementary school teacher, now trains future elementary and middle school teachers as a professor at Towson University. She also owns a consulting business, MathWorks, and has written several books on math education.

“Honi, I can’t even begin to tell you how much you have done for me over the years as a lecturer at (Towson University),” wrote a donor posting under the name Becky Kinneyy. “I hope that this donation can help you re-build the library that I have borrowed from more times than I can even remember!”

“I can not put into words how much your mother has influenced me as an educator,” wrote Michelle Burden. “Many students have benefited and continue to benefit from the professional learning I have received from her. Like the Pheonix (sic), her math tools will rise again!”

Stephanie Bamberger said the messages have brought some comfort to an otherwise traumatic situation.

“It’s really been very therapeutic for her,” she said of Honi Bamberger’s reaction to the GoFundMe campaign. “At night, when we’re sitting at my dining room table, I’m working and she’s reading through the messages. It’s very touching to her that people are giving something.”

Honi Bamberger is still figuring out next steps. She’s had to take a break from teaching while she picks up the pieces.

But, Stephanie Bamberger said, “for her, I think once she gets through all of this and finds herself a place to live, and gets enough materials back where she can start to do her consulting again - I can imagine for the rest of her life she’ll think differently about how people feel about her.

“Even though she’s so empty, except for a few bags in my guest room, I guess she feels full of love.”


Information from: The Baltimore Sun, https://www.baltimoresun.com

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