On one of the hottest days of the year, Rosan Acosta would rather not be walking from place to place in Arlington Heights, but on Wednesday she didn’t have a choice.
Acosta, who has been homeless for a few years, lost her bike and all of her personal possessions in a fiery explosion Tuesday night that police said was set by an arsonist.
She had been locking up her bike, a suitcase packed with clothes and travel-size personal items, and a basket with her crochet needles on the first floor of an Arlington Heights parking garage since the beginning of the month.
They were ransacked once, she said, but otherwise it seemed like a safe spot.
That is until Tuesday evening when Acosta was staying cool at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library, working on a computer, when police officers came in a little after 7 p.m. to speak to her.
There had been some kind of explosion, possibly a bomb, she was told.
Someone had set her belongings on fire, and an aerosol can of bug spray in her bag blew up, police said.
“It’s just a shock. I felt dumbfounded because I lost everything again,” Acosta said Wednesday, still in her clothes from the night before. She met the Daily Herald inside a local McDonald’s for a break from the nearly 100-degree day outside.
“My biggest fear was that someone else was hurt and that in some way it was my fault,” she said. “My mind started spinning.”
No one was injured in the explosion, but two nearby vehicles were coated with a film of smoke and fire retardant material, according to a police report. Officers asked Acosta if she had any enemies. She said no. “I’m not that kind of person,” she said.
Police said Wednesday nobody has been charged.
Acosta, 55, went to Southern Illinois University and worked in a variety of retail and receptionist jobs over the years but has been out of work since 2009. She mainly keeps to herself, enjoys writing and crocheting, takes long bike rides around the suburbs and continues looking for a job and permanent place to live.
She has spent some time at PADS shelters and with friends, but right now she’s roughing it. Tuesday night after the excitement died down and the police left the scene, she slept on a park bench in downtown Arlington Heights.
The biggest loss, she said, is her bike — which a private citizen has already called police to offer to replace.
“Losing my bike is major; it’s the only way I can get around,” Acosta said. “I’m very worried about having to walk everywhere in this heat. My body can’t take it.”
Aside from her mode of transportation, she is disappointed to lose her crochet materials. Acosta would often sit in the Metra station, at a downtown restaurant or in the library, crocheting afghans to donate to charity or churches.
Now, several of those churches are helping her get by.
Being on and off the streets for a few years, Acosta knows when area churches provide free meals and was planning to go to St. James Parish on Wednesday night for dinner. Earlier in the day she walked a few miles north to Orchard evangelical Free Church, where a ministry member offered her a new backpack and a few clean shirts.
“I just need the basics,” she said.
Acosta said she isn’t sure what she’ll do next, other than try to avoid the present heat wave and keep sending out job applications.
She said she wasn’t even sure where she would sleep Wednesday night.
“I don’t know what to plan to do now,” she said.
Anyone with information about the crime can submit an anonymous tip by texting the keyword 847AHPD and your message to 847411 (tip411). Or, call Arlington Heights Crime Stoppers at (847) 590-STOP. Callers are guaranteed anonymity and may qualify for a cash reward of up to $1,000.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.