For Gregg and Leslie Ciccone, the terrible events of December 19th are slowly disappearing in their memories.
The St. Petersburg couple had sold their boutique bakery swah-rey and were headed west on Interstate 10 to California, where Leslie was about to start a new job in San Diego.
At 2:45 a.m., an 18-wheel truck rammed the Ciccones’ 14-foot trailer attached to the RV Gregg was driving. The force tore the vehicles apart and the motorhome overturned twice and landed in parts on the side of the road. The 18-wheeler – at least that’s what they mean – sped away.
As if by a miracle, the Ciccones and their two dogs Lad and Rey were unharmed.
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“Every day is getting a little better because everything is getting a little further away,” said Gregg Ciccone. “Even when you have quiet, reflective moments, you can’t help but think about how much this really is coincidence. I just think about it, wow, the world is such a random place. “
A GoFundMe campaign launched in St. Pete grossed over $ 18,000 for the couple. “Leslie cries almost every night when we talk about all the people who have helped us. And how many anonymous people donated. It’s just crazy. “
The donations are particularly important as the insurance money for the mobile home and trailer has not yet arrived; in fact, their claim is still being processed. “That just adds an insult to the injury,” said Ciccone. “But at least we’re alive to do it. We keep telling ourselves that. “
Time was a factor as Leslie, a seasoned air traffic controller, was due to begin her position with the Federal Aviation Administration on January 3rd.
Gregg, Leslie, and the dogs spent a total of five days at a roadside motel in Mississippi. Although the trailer was crushed, they were able to salvage some belongings that a friend of a friend who happened to live in Biloxi was keeping for them until transportation to San Diego could be arranged.
“Most of the clothes were good because it looked like no weather had come in,” explained Gregg Ciccone.
Works of art and other possessions were not so lucky. “Things that weren’t very valuable, but were such a part of our lives. They meant so much to us, they were associated with so many memories. They were just broken slit, broken slit folded in half, stuff like that. “
They left Mississippi in a rented minivan on December 23 and spent Christmas in another hotel. The trip took four days.
Today they are housed in their apartment in San Diego; Leslie drives to work in a different rental car each day.
Your own car is still in Tampa waiting to be shipped west.
“You only notice when you’ve lost all the forks, pots, pans and clothes hangers and everything, how much that stuff literally costs,” says Ciccone. “A MacBook that Leslie lost in the accident costs $ 2,400. Only one. Phones, $ 800. A TV. Just stuff. And everything adds up. “
Although her pre-existing back pain was made worse by the accident, Leslie Ciccone is, according to her husband, “a strong person. She is good at what she does and she has a really good outlook on life. She says we all have setbacks, you just have to move forward.
“Nevertheless, after rolling over it twice in a vehicle, you have a different perspective. Everyone would. “
The plan is to stay in San Diego for a year or two, even if it takes a long time for Leslie to qualify for FAA retirement benefits. At this point the ciccones return to St. Petersburg.
Gregg will be back in a couple of weeks. In addition to his long résumé as a restaurant professional and entrepreneur, he is a licensed general contractor and intends to complete the renovation work on his mother-in-law’s home in Old Southeast.
“This is my personal joy in using my hands and building things,” he said. “And solve problems in this way. But what brought me a lot of money was to do the other things. “
Back in San Diego – what Leslie calls the couple’s “home away from home” – he plans to start a new project.
“I really don’t know what I’m going to do,” he said. “I’ll just find something I really like and then I’ll move on. We’re lucky because of Leslie’s job, how long she’s been with the FAA and what level she is at, that I can afford to be a little picky about what I want to do.
“I said to Leslie, just focus on your job and let me start with the bottom base of the building blocks and let’s put our lives back together after that.”