It’s not the kind of text you want to get.
“My house burned … We’re OK but it looks like we lost everything.”
That’s what my friend Sonya texted me a couple of weeks ago. I was in total shock. This kind of tragedy isn’t common to begin with. And then, how often do you actually know the people who are affected?
Here’s the story: On the morning of Sept. 3, Sonya got up, made breakfast and took her two kids to school. At about 7:50 a.m., a fire started from the stove in her kitchen and, within minutes, flames engulfed the home. About 35 firefighters responded to the two-alarm fire; it took them half an hour to get it under control. (Sonya hadn’t used the stove that morning or the night before.)
Luckily, she and the kids weren’t home. There were four others — and a dog — upstairs, though, but they all escaped unharmed.
I helped her sift through whatever belongings remained — and it wasn’t a lot. Her work laptop, some jewelry, a box of athletic shoes, her son’s algebra textbook. Some of their clothing might be salvageable; they need to be washed thoroughly by professionals to remove soot and that burn smell. (Trust me, it’s a smell you won’t forget.)
And miraculously, some of her most treasured photos remained, like a few of her and the kids and a framed photo collages of her grandparents.
I’ve known Sonya for years. We met as volunteers for the Cherry Blossom Festival and quickly became fast friends. We’ve co-chaired events, helped to manage Festival Ball, and, 10 years ago, we even chaired the entire festival. We’ve always been a team.
And we’ve been through it all: divorces, job changes, the hassles of moving, dating woes, health issues, the kind of stress and drama only CBF volunteers would understand.
But this, well, this was a new one.
And yet, through it all, we’ve managed to laugh about things. Like when she found a plastic bin of papers and books related to the festival. “I just can’t seem to get rid of this stuff,” she joked. I had to laugh.
Despite everything, she’s been optimistic and positive, never complaining or feeling sorry for herself. (Though she has every right to!) Even when she found out she didn’t have any insurance coverage on the contents of her rental — meaning, she has to replace everything on her own — she didn’t flinch. She just carried on, moved forward, and still managed to smile.
“I’m OK,” she texted me. “I got my kids. Everything else is just material stuff and can be replaced.”
Her son, Josh, told her that this is a good thing. “Starting a new chapter, a new story,” she texted me. “He has a good attitude.”
But she does need help.
So I’ve started a DonationTo.com site where you can contribute whatever you can to help this family get back on their feet.
But she’ll take prayers, too.
The next time I complain about not having a new computer or breaking my Canon D60 — yes, I’m still talking about that! LOL! — I’ll remember Sonya and how much she’s lost — yet how much we’ve all gained from her.
If you’re interested in helping Sonya and her family, go to DonationTo.com/Save-Sonya. Any amount helps.