Standing Strong After Tragedies


I was at work when I heard the fire sirens going off, firetrucks racing to their destination, and a call from my little sister saying that the apartment complex our home was built into was on fire. As we watched our memories burn up with the house, friends surrounded us with love and comfort promising to replace everything they possibly could. As my sister and I thought this was the end,  the junior high held a clothing drive, Red Cross offered gift cards to replace lost items and housing for as long as needed, and Saint Vincent De Paul offered to replace our furniture. We realized it wasn’t the end, but only a new beginning. Not only were these individuals and organizations so quick to help my family,  but they are always quick to help others, too.

Everywhere in the world, tragedies happen every single day. Whether a natural disaster, a car accident, a suicide, a drug overdose, or a house fire, tragedies happen. A fire can burn holes in people’s lives that take time to heal. Even if the wounds start to mend a little bit, scars will remain which do, in time, build character.

Latrobe students have suffered from disastrous house fires that consumed everything they knew all their lives and left scarred remnants. Memories shared with family and friends, personal belongings, and the security of being able to sleep comfortably in your own bed quickly engulf in flames. Thankful attitudes can  turn the disastrous situation from a near-fatality into a new beginning.

Senior Rachel Berger’s house caught fire when she was a sophomore babysitting her siblings. She managed to get them to safety before any harm was done. “My neighbors took them across the street until the fire department came,“ said Berger.

“The fire had already grown so large that it was melting my neighbors siding,” she said. Berger thought of her “family members” that she wanted to rescue as the fire took over the house.

“I ran inside one last time to get my dogs. As I picked them up, the glass on the door exploded from the fire and smoke began to flood inside. I made it out the back door safely and I was lucky to be alive,” said Berger.  Many are lucky not to have lost loved ones or animals in a fiery inferno. A  home and clothes are replaceable, and you can make new memories,  but you cannot replace people.

In a family’s time of need, the community comes together to help support the family in any way, shape, and form. Schools will go out of their way to help, such as organizing clothing drives and giving monetary donations. Red Cross in Greensburg donates gift cards to assist in replacing clothes and household items. Not only that, they also organize where the family will stay for the next few days, maybe even the next few weeks.

“My house burned down two days before Christmas, 2012,” said Sydney Nix. “Even though it was four in the morning,” she explains.  “Within minutes, my neighbors were outside helping us get out some of our stuff. The days following the fire, strangers would come over and give us stuff like cookie trays, cards, money, and blankets.” Neighbors and friends come together to help rebuild. A new beginning is always waiting, more so a new chapter.

“It kinda made me look at the bright side of things. We could have lost someone, but we didn’t. So, it’s not the end of the world,” said Amber Beaken whose house fire destroyed her home in the early hours of Thursday, March 20, 2014.

“I was really thinking about my chameleons, my sister was screaming at me to stay outside but they mattered to me,” said Beaken.

“I’m still kinda in shock. I hate driving by 309 Spruce Street. When we drive by I say, ‘Can you smell the fire? Can you smell it?’” Beaken is trying to come to grips with the life-changing event that happened just three weeks ago.

When being strong is all you have left to be, it helps the families that fall victim to house fires pull together a little bit more and help each other heal. It helps a community member realize that the calamity is just a bump in the road of life, an experience that will change views on life to the brighter things, and will build character to the fullest.