Friday, October 29, 2010

Fire Friday- Tammy Jo's story

I am a wife and mother of three children. My son is 10, my daughter is 8 and our youngest girl is 2. We had been married nearly 10 years and bought home in 1999. My husband had changed it quite a bit and although I needed a new kitchen, I loved my home. We live in Massachusetts and my husband is co owner of a cabinet making business. We were having money troubles of course with the economy and I was trying to work and take care of the kids and school work and everything most moms do.

The night of our fire, I was folding laundry on the coffee table watching tv. We heated our home with a wood stove and had been using it for years. It was a very cold night and I even made sure to put enough wood so I wouldn't have to come down in the middle of the night to fill it again. I went to bed around 10 pm feeling confident that I had the lunches made and the laundry folded for the next day.

3:35 a.m. We hear the spoke detector beeping. It is a kind that speaks and says FIRE FIRE FIRE FIRE. We raced down stairs assuming it was the wood stove acting up. We soon discovered there was a lot of smoke in the house. Our kids were screaming and the baby was still upstairs. ( My husband build a 3 car garage with three bedrooms and a bathroom above it) My husband told me to grab the baby and he went to check to see where the smoke was coming from. (at that point, I really thought the wood stove just popped the top and smoke had escaped) As I got downstairs with the baby and the other kids near me, my husband said the smoke had filled our finished basement and we needed to get the kids in the van.

Without thinking, I grabbed the kids and put them in the car as I picked up my phone to call 911. We live in a community where there is no full time fire department. The firemen were sleeping in their beds so we had to wait for them to wake up, go to the station and get here!! We backed out of our driveway and parked down the street. My husband called his parents and while crying told them he thought our house was on fire!

We were all crying by now, watching the smoke pour out of the windows. The smoke was so thick and so black. We had our family dog in our car and she was lucky because she didn't know what was going on. We were watching our home pour smoke out each orifice and I didn't know what to think. The tears were streaming down my face and I had to try to keep a brave face for my son and daughter. My baby was just sitting in my lap. She was 5 months old at the time.

The fire department came and my husband went to the house to answer the questions they had about where our source of heat came from. By this time, my in laws drove across town to our street and got into our car and saw the five of us crying and scared. They saw my son who had already suffered from anxiety wonder what was going on. They saw my husband cry for the first time in his adult life. I suffer from Irritable bowel syndrome and I had to use my mother in law's boots to walk to my neighbors house with really bad stomach pains.

Some family members came to our car and took our kids to their home so they could get some rest and not further damage their little minds. They were after all, very young tired children who needed food, and clothing and rest.

We watched while they were slipping and sliding down the street because it was so cold outside and the water froze on the street. Our neighbor told us to get our of our car and into their home. It was at our neighbors house where we learned that everything was gone. The structure was still in tact, but all our possessions inside were destroyed. The fire started form our chimney. The person who built it did not put enough mortar between the bricks and the wood of the house. Through use and time, it was inevitable. It was not our fault, and there was no way to inspect it, repair it or predict it. We were just lucky that the smoke detectors worked.

The fire chief came to the neighbors house and took us in and let us see our home...
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These pictures were taken of the first things we saw when we entered the front door. We could recognize everything, yet see nothing...This truly changed us. It changed who we are as people and has changed how our children live and react to life.

We lived in a trailer on our property for just six months, but it felt like six years. We were cramped and uncomfortable, but alive and together. We had some amazing support from family, friends, and community. We received many donations and so much emotional support.

We were forced to knock down the main part of the house and rebuild from the foundation. The garage with the bedrooms above had to be gutted out and built up again. We moved into our new home in July of 09' thanks to my husband's business and a great insurance company.
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This is our new home.
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This is one of the first things seen when coming in the front door now...

My two children and myself have been seeing a counselor since the fire and I often stay awake as long as possible to make sure we are all safe. Just tonight, one year and a half later, my son is nervous about a heater we put upstairs to keep us warm. I know we are safe. I just don't know when my body will feel safe again...
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This picture was taken May 2010. My husband Scott, baby Erica, Myself Tammy Jo, our son Matthew, and our big daughter Laura.
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Thanks for sharing Tammy Jo. I'm wishing you peace as you continue to heal from the pain of your fire.

Do you have a story to share? Email me at life_after_the_fire@yahoo.com.

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