YADKINVILLE — It seems unimaginable that one family could suffer so much in the short span of two weeks, but that is exactly what did happen to one local family, though their faith, they say, is keeping them strong.
On May 31, Henry Brown lost his wife, Angela, of 13 years — his high school sweetheart and mother to their two children, Zachary and Danielle — then on June 16, the family lost their home at the corner of Country Club and Shore Road in a fire.
Brown called Angela “the backbone of the whole place.”
“Me and my wife had been together 17 years,” Brown said. “Not only was she a mother to my children and my wife, she was my best friend. You don’t get that relationship every day, but we were soul mates, we were best friends.”
As is life, however, it must go on for those still on the earth and so it was back to work for Brown just a few weeks after the devastating loss of his best friend.
“Monday morning we were starting to get ourselves back in order,” Brown explained. “Me and my father in-law had both started back to work that day. We go to work just like any other day, of course for me it’s a little different now because I pass the graveyard where she’s buried and I just kiss the air and say, ‘take care of the young’uns’ just like I would if she was still there ‘cause I believe she still hears us and she’s listening to us.”
For 11-year-old Danielle, not only was her mother listening that day, but speaking to her also. Danielle said that she and her brother heard two booms that sounded like explosions and then as they were running from the house, they heard a third explosion. What Danielle also heard was the voice of her mother and her Grandpa Ben telling her to get out of the house.
The two children had just come back to their house from their grandmother’s house next door so their 18-month-old cousin could take a nap.
“I heard what sounded like an explosion,” Danielle said. “And before I could tell him [Zachary] we need to get Smokey [the family dog] and go, the second one came.”
She also said when she heard the voice of her deceased mother and grandfather, she knew something was very wrong and she had to act quickly to save herself and her brother.
“He likes to analyze stuff,” Danielle said matter-of-factly of her younger brother. “So I knew if I didn’t get him out then he’d be standing there trying to figure out what happened.”
Zachary said that while he had seen fires on TV, seeing it in person was very scary.
“While we were running from the house I looked back to see what was wrong with the house and all I saw was the power line down with fire under it and I thought ‘oh, crap,’” Zachary said.
Brown received a call at work telling him his house was burning and so he immediately headed home.
“Coming around the bend there in the curve in the road and seeing your house ablaze, you just feel empty,” he said. “I felt very, very empty. Once I got home I found out a transfer truck had grabbed a low hanging power line that Duke Power’s had sagging there for six years, it dropped two power poles blowing the transformers and sending mega volts into our house.”
Brown’s father in-law, Ronald Holcomb, said the low hanging line has caused problems for years and there have been many complaints but nothing was done by the power company to fix the line.
The Yadkin County Fire Marshal’s Office is still investigating the blaze, but a new and taller power pole has now been installed, though too late to save the home of the Brown family.
The family said the area around the television set was completely destroyed.
“It was like a bomb went off,” said Wanda Holcomb, Brown’s mother in-law.
Despite the devastation to their home, Ronald Holcomb said it could have been much worse and the family is grateful that the children were able to quickly get out. Smokey, the Brown’s dog, was saved and Holcomb also was able to pull a cage with the family’s cats inside off the porch, though the cats ran away after the blaze. Penelope, the Brown’s guinea pig, did not survive the fire, he died from smoke inhalation, they believe.
Now the family is preparing to make a new start after surviving both the loss of their mother and wife and now their home. The Yadkinville Fire Department and the children’s school, Boonville Elementary, are collecting donations for the family and they said they are so grateful for the help they already have received from people in the local community and beyond.
Brown has found a new home to rent for the time being, though he says it will be hard to think of it as “home.” The family has received a number of clothing donations, but are still in need of all common household items from bedding to towels and furniture for their new residence.
“People don’t realize, but we even have to replace salt,” Brown said. “All the household necessities, the stuff to get you back into life and going.”
Having been out of work for two weeks following the death of his wife and now another week following the fire, the family is also in need of some financial assistance.
Support that already has been given to the family has overwhelmed them, Brown said.
“Our family really deeply expresses our gratitude for everything that’s already been done,” he said. The family already has been contacted by people in nearby North Carolina towns offering assistance and even as far as away as Texas.
“A lot of people wonder how we keep going,” Brown said. “We are a very, very faith-based family and honestly if it wasn’t for prayers and thoughts and communication and everything with people that we’ve never met in our life and prayers being prayed through the whole country for my family, we wouldn’t be able to make it.”
Monetary donations, clothing, furniture or other household items for the Brown family may be sent to the Yadkinville Fire Department, Boonville Elementary School or to Brown’s father-in-law’s home at 2442 Shore Road in Yadkinville.
Kitsey E. Burns may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.