A torrential rain and hail storm started to fall forcing me to turn on my flashers and slow down. I was driving on HWY 264 to pick up my wife and daughter from RDU international airport. They were returning from World’s Cheerleading championship in Florida. At about that time my daughter called me. While driving, I answered the phone explaining I needed to call her back because of the road conditions. She stops me and says, “NO DAD, OUR HOUSE IS ON FIRE!”
My response, “Our what is who? Hold on let me get off the road.” Over time I learned that our house was saved by Coach Robert “Peanut” Langston because he called the fire department. He had dropped his son off at his ex-wife’s house across the street and noticed smoke. On checking he found smoke was pouring out of our attic and smoke alarms were beeping. He then immediately called 911 and pounded on the doors to make sure nobody was inside. People are amazing!
Normally Amanda is home at that time resting after school before work. Luckily, that day she stayed at school to work on Prom decorations. Coach Langston knows us but not our contact information so he called Jake Jacobs who he knew could contact us. Even though Jake was in California, Coach Langston asked Jake to contact us. Jake said, “Sure I can text them.” Coach said, “No, you need to call them, THEIR HOUSE IS ON FIRE!” People are amazing!
Our daughter Amanda therefore learned about the fire from Jake Jacobs. Jake was unable to reach my wife, Camilla, and myself because Camilla was on the plane and I was out of range because of the storm. After Amanda answered the phone from Jake wondering what he could want, he asked her where she was. I am told in an apathetic voice she said she was driving in our neighborhood near our home. Jake then told her the house was on fire.
Of course being a parent and not knowing the situation he told her, “DO NOT GO INSIDE”. He said he must have told her that 10 times because he didn’t know what the scene looked like or who was there. When she got to the house the block was covered with fire trucks and firemen were working on the house. As she approached, Coach Langston met her to tell her what was happening. The police chief quickly came to her to ask if anyone was inside. She said, “No, nobody is even in Greenville BUT MY PROM DRESSES ARE IN THAT FRONT ROOM?” When I arrived, the fire chief told me my 18 year old daughter was amazing! She is! People are amazing!
Amanda had just had 2 dresses altered because the boy she was going with was at a different school so one prom was that coming Friday and the other was on Saturday. The first prom was in 3 days. The dresses were by the front door in plastic bags tied at the bottom because they had just been retrieved from the alterer. Fortunately the dresses were saved. I was told the rescue fireman carried the dresses out like a body for Amanda to receive. People are amazing!
The rest of house however could not be saved, at least from fire, water and smoke damage. Because of the fast and skilled response by our fire department, the frame was saved. I was told it took only 3 minutes for the fire department to arrive at the scene after being called. In one of the investigator’s estimation, the house was only 2 minutes from being engulfed. People are amazing!
After I received the news from Amanda and learned the firemen had the situation under control and there was nothing I could do, I continued to the airport to pick up my wife and daughter. Of course with cell phones, several people had already texted my wife and daughter and they had learned about the fire. My wife had also already been informed by Karen Jacobs that she had already secured a furnished apartment for us to stay in that night. Karen, Jake’s wife, had also gone over to our house to see if she could help. Therefore, before we had even thought about our need to find a place to stay, Karen who manages and owns several rental properties, had found us a place to stay. People are amazing!
On the drive home I contacted and was contacted by several people in town about our situation. About an hour from home, I was contacted by my colleague, Karen Vail Smith and she told me not to come to into town because a tornado’s had been seen. People are amazing!
Learning about the danger in Greenville, we called former neighbors, the Sonnenberg’s who now lived in Wilson, NC to see if they were home and we could stop by until the weather passed. With open arms they gladly welcomed us and asked how they could help. They gave us some food and did all they could to put our minds at ease. They along with many others had offered us a place to stay. People are amazing!
The fire was reported to have started about 4:30 or so and fireman were there shortly after 5:00pm. Even though we did not get to the house until after 10pm, the fire chief and another fire fighter were waiting for us on the porch. With patience we were shown the scene and his preliminary findings that the roof exhaust fan had overheated and started the fire. All that was left of the fan was charred remains. When Amanda learned the fire in the attic was above my closet and most of my clothes were ruined, she said, “Dad, that may have been a blessing in disguise.” People are amazing!
After the fire, it has been different. Often we don’t realize we need something until it is needed. For instance, the SAT test was scheduled in four days for my younger daughter Annika. For the SATs a printed ticket is needed but was now lost as was our printer. Once again, friends came through to help so Annika could take her exam. People are amazing!
In another situation when Amanda was getting ready for prom we realized we did not have a hair dryer. In haste I ran outside our apartment looking for a female. After finding a lady, I ran up to her and excitedly said, “This may sound like a crazy story but we just moved in here because our house burned down on Tuesday and we don’t have anything. My daughter is trying to get ready for prom and we don’t have hair dryer, can you help?” I must of looked and sounded like mad man but I did tell her which apartment we were in and we parted. I assumed I had scared her away and went back to ask my daughter and wife what we could do now. As I was talking to them and explaining why that idea probably didn’t work, a knock was heard at the door. I answered and the lady I had talked to was there with a hair dryer in hand. People are amazing! When I asked her where I should bring it back to, she responded, “Don’t worry it is an extra, keep it!” People are amazing!
Many ask how they can they can help, we are unsure then as now, how to respond to that question because we often don’t even know what we need until its needed. For instance, quite a bit of grime had gotten under my nails from sorting through the debris. I wanted to cut my nails but realized, I had no nail clippers. All we had was what we had on our person.
Although there has been times when we did not have the things we needed, people have been amazingly generous with gifts. Since all our possessions in our house were taken to be ionized, meaning to get the smoke smell out, the gifts of clothes, blankets, and gift cards have been greatly appreciated.
Through this experience, my belief that people are amazing has been confirmed. I strongly believe that because of the help we have received from all these wonderful people we will come out of this experience better than before and eager to pay forward the wonderful kindness we have received. Thank you to all! People are amazing!
Thank You Everyone,
Craig, Camilla, Amanda, & Annika