Fire fighters appreciated for ‘labors’

Published 5:59 pm Monday, September 7, 2009

Nightmares most often come during the dark and loneliness of night.

But, sometimes, they come during waking hours when the sun in high in the sky.

Pat Powell knows all too well about daytime nightmares.

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Around midday on Aug. 4, the telephone rang. She answered it with complete peace of mind.

However, the voice on the other end of the line turned her world upside down.

“Your house is burning down.”

Powell said she stood in disbelief. Shocked. Stunned. Beyond tears.

“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” she said.

“It was a nightmare.”

Powell was in Dothan keeping her daughter’s children, who were out of school for the summer. She was planning to return home to Troy at the end of the week. Her bags were packed and ready.

“I couldn’t grasp what I had heard,” she said. “I couldn’t believe what was happening to me. It was like a bad dream that I couldn’t wake up from. It was a nightmare.”

When Powell and her daughter drove up to her house a little more than an hour later, what had been her home was a smoldering pile of rubble.

“I had always had a home and, in just an hour, I didn’t have one anymore,” Powell said. “I didn’t have a home to come home to.”

Powell said the fire fighters from the Troy Fire Department and the Meeksville Volunteer Fire Department did all they could to save her home, but the fire was too far gone.

“They tried their best, and I will always be grateful to them,” she said.

“I can’t ever thank them enough. Them and the Troy Police Department and my family and friends that came to help. Everyone was so kind. It meant so much to me to know that other people cared and wanted to do something to help.”

Powell said there’s no way to describe the feeling of helplessness and emptiness that comes with the loss of one’s home.

“I’d always heard that losing your house to fire is the next thing to a death in the family,” she said.

“I believe that. It’s so final. Everything that I had was gone, and there was no way to get it back.

“What hurt the most was that I lost so many personal things that can never be replaced. The portraits of my children when they graduated from high school. All of the pictures of my children and grandchildren. My jewelry and other personal things. We moved in the house in 1972, and I’ve been collecting things all these years. I’m a pack rat and everything that I had ever saved is gone. Everything.”

Powell said she has not yet been able to even think about starting over.

“Where do you start? Where? I just don’t know.”

On this Labor Day weekend, Powell said her thoughts are for those who put their lives on the line every day for others.

“People like our fire fighters and police officers,” she said.

“We don’t really think about how important they are until we need them. They weren’t able to save my house, but they tried. I just want to thank them because I know what it’s like to lose everything, and they are the ones who can keep it from happening to others. We really need to appreciate our fire fighters. They are heroes.”