Family hoping rebuild lives following holiday house fire

Published 6:00 am Friday, January 11, 2008

Mary Graham and her daughter Wonder Blue sorted through thewreckage of the home they lost two days after Christmas, sometimesamazed at what survived, sometimes devastated at what didn’t.

Graham had shared the house on Kelly Road in Brignall for yearswith her two daughters and their five children. On Dec. 27, though,a problem in the stove led to an early morning blaze that destroyedthe entire home in a matter of a few short hours.

The family awakened to the smell of smoke and found theirkitchen engulfed in flames. They were able to get themselves out,and the family dog, so nobody was injured in the flames.

“As long as we’re all breathing, that’s the good thing,” Grahamsaid while standing in the rubble earlier this week. “But that’sthe only good thing so far.”

Graham and Blue said they’re not starting 2008 without a roofover their head. A friend has let their family use a home on StormAvenue until the house sells, or until they find another home orget another one built.

Of course, when the family looked ahead to the new year, theynever could have guessed they’d be putting together a whole newlife.

“We’re so grateful for everything the community has done forus,” said Graham. “We’re so thankful to have a place to stay, wecan’t even express it. But there’s nothing like having your ownhouse.”

Blue found a stack of pictures that had not been entirelydestroyed by the fire and excitedly showed them to her mother.

“I wish I could get back all my pictures,” she said. “I like totake pictures, and I lost all my pictures of everything in thefire. My glamour shots, my senior pictures, my baby pictures …All of them.”

Graham said she even misses things that seem simple.

“I lost my keys in the fire,” she said. “But I got what I wouldmiss the most out – me and my family.”

The night of the fire the family watched as everything theyowned went up in smoke.

At one time, though, Blue’s son 15-year-old Channing Sims hadgrabbed a brand new pair of jeans he’d gotten for Christmas,thinking they’d been saved. Unfortunately, they were not.

While recalling the night’s events this week, Blue held up thenow-unusable Christmas present that Sims had tried to rescue. Thetag was still attached, but there was a hole in the leg, whetherfrom fire or from being snagged and torn on something in the bustleof that night.

“Poor Channing, here are his pants,” she said. “He thought hecould save them.”

And Graham held up a piece of china that had been on a chest inher kitchen.

“Is there any way to get burn off?” she asked almostrhetorically.

Blue said when people have asked if they could help, she’srequested clothing for the children to wear to school. Blue, astudent at Co-Lin, also lost school books and clothing, but thathasn’t been on her mind in the face of the needs of the children,from four months old up to 17 years.

“But someone finally gave her some clothes she can wear toschool, too,” Graham said.

The hardest part is dealing with the idea that everythingthey’ve had for years is actually gone, and they’re starting againfrom scratch, the women said.

“I’m still thinking of things I think I have but I don’t havethem anymore. It’s so strange to have it one day and it’s gone thenext,” Graham said. “But I can’t say enough how blessed we are tohave our lives.”

Because of that, however, they have never felt so cared for.Graham said trials like the one her family is going through aretough, but the fact they all have each other can also be a reminderof how much God loves them.

“People have said to me, ‘You lost all that high pricefurniture,'” Graham said. “But it’s just material things, and youcan’t take them with you. We have such a short period of time here,and you can’t take any of this with you.”

The family is still pondering options for what they will do withwhat is left of the house. They had insurance, though it wasn’tenough to cover all the damage.

And as they look to the coming year, as well as the rest of thefuture, the family has said they’re just planning to just keepputting one foot in front of the other. The Blue Family Relief Fundhas been set up at State Bank for the family of nine so people whowant to help can donate to the cause.

Graham said she’d like to one day rebuild her home, but thefamily is trying to figure out what to do one day at a time.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do about the house,” she said,adding they won’t even know if there’s been damage to thefoundation until the remains of the structure are knocked down andcleared.

But above all else, the women said, the situation has reinforcedto them how important family is, and how grateful they are to haveeach other. They’re also thankful for the people who tried to savetheir home the night of the fire and the people who have helped outsince.

“So many of the firefighters have called us to make sure we’reOK and to see if we need anything,” said Blue. “And people are allchecking on us to find out if we’re doing all right. We’re justgrateful for everything people have done for us, and that makes thestruggle a little easier.”