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Strength through tragedy

December 11, 2009 - Erin O'Neill
I remember it clear as day, even though I was only 11 years old. I doubt that something as tragic as a house fire is something anyone ever completely gets over.

Losing your home to a fire is bad enough. But losing your uninsured home and all your possessions during the holidays is extremely traumatizing, especially for families with young kids.

It was December 9, 1984 when my childhood home went up in flames in the wee hours of the morning. My 8-year-old sister and I were safely tucked in at the neighbors' house next door. My parents had gone out to a party earlier in the evening.

The exact details of what happened, I will probably never know. All I know is the next morning I woke up and knew instantly something was very wrong. One look out the window, well... that image is forever seared on my brain.

The weeks and months to follow were very difficult to say the least. We were basically homeless, yet my sister and I were expected to go to school and fit in wearing hand-me-down clothes. As a child, I didn't understand charity and I didn't understand the enormity of the love that was pouring in for my family. But as I grew, I became grateful for everyone in the community who did so much to help us get back on our feet.

We often hear similar tragic stories during this time of year. Just this past weekend, a Lowell family lost their home to fire but counts their blessings that everyone made it out alive.

When I read stories like these, it is impossible for me not to cry and to have to relive a part of my childhood that was so painful. But it also makes me want to get the word out, in my role as a journalist, for people to be safe and to look out for one another.

I urge everyone who has the means to do so to help this family or other families in their time of need. Come together as a community. Donate to the Red Cross, clean out your closets, buy a new toy. Give of yourself in some way. Because somewhere a family is hurting and could really use a helping hand.


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