By Todd Travis
Everything is gone
On Thursday, Jan. 12, Southside resident Turquoise Burgess returned to her neighborhood to find a shocking scene before her eyes. Firetrucks and emergency vehicles were outside along with other residents in the neighborhood. She got out of the car to ask one of the firefighters what had happened. He informed her that one of the houses on the street had caught on fire.
“Did it have a burgundy door?” Burgess asked.
“Yes.” He replied.
“Is it bad?” She responded.
“Yes. Everything is gone,” he informed her.
Those words continue to echo in Burgess’ head as she is still trying to fully wrap her mind around what happened. At first, she was in disbelief.
“You must be punk’n me. I don’t think this is real,” she first said.
“So I walked past the fireman and walked down a little bit to find that it was definitely my house,” Burgess recalled.
Just an hour earlier, Burgess was at home not realizing her life was about to be flipped upside down. She actually had other things on her mind.
“I had actually just got back from an appointment with my son, confirming that he had seizures – so I was thinking about how to deal with that,” she remembered.
An unsettling premonition
This particular day, she had just enough time to take a nap before needing to go pick up her daughter. As she started to settle down to rest for a bit, she had an unsettling feeling that came over her. She couldn’t shake it and began to feel urged to get out of the house right away to go pick up her daughter.
“I’m a believer, so I believe it was God telling me not to take that nap. Usually I don’t go and pick her up until about 4:30, but that day I knew for whatever reason that I needed to get out of the house right away. I was rushing my son and we headed out, even though I really didn’t even know exactly why at the time,” Burgess explained.
“Not half an hour later, I returned to see the house burned down and I knew that God had saved me and my son by urging me to leave. If I had taken that nap, I would not have made it out of there, and my son wouldn’t have either,” she added.
Now Burgess is left to pick up the pieces with her son and her daughter. As thankful as she is to have survived the fire, she now faces the reality that almost everything she owned has been incinerated. Unfortunately, the items she owned were not covered by any insurance.
“I thought I had renters insurance that I was paying through the renters company, but it turns out that the policy didn’t protect any of my items – just the building,” Burgess mentioned.
Burgess is a clinical research coordinator at Franciscan Health Cancer Center. She began working there in September of 2022. With her short tenure at the hospital, she wasn’t sure what kind of response she was going to get from the hospital regarding her situation. To her surprise, she has been met with overwhelming support, even from people she does not even know.
Community Outreach Coordinator at Franciscan, Joan Himebrook, has taken it upon herself to lead the charge in helping Burgess get on her feet. At this point, Burgess is pretty much starting from nothing. Himebrook started out by sending an e-mail out through the Franciscan network and began getting responses right away.
“I sent an e-mail out on Monday morning after the incident and within about 20 minutes of sending it out I already had people responding and stopping by ready to help. The outpouring was just instant and immediate,” Himebrook described.
“I’ve probably had about 10 people who have said they lost everything to a fire, and they knew what it was like to lose everything. They wanted to pay it back for kindness they had been shown when they were in a tough situation. And of course, the cancer center staff we see people in tough situations every day, so it’s just the heart of how people are working at the cancer center here at Franciscan,” she added.
Himebrook has also been able to help relocate Burgess as she has been temporarily staying with her father and stepmother while she figures out her next steps.
“We had someone reach out willing to rent out a house close to the hospital for about what she was paying for the other house. We were able to collect money to pay for her first and last month’s rent as well as security deposit, and people are offering to donate furniture as well once the house situation is finalized,” Himebrook said.
If you feel you would like to contribute and help Burgess, you can email Himebrook at Joan.firstname.lastname@example.org.