By Farida Master
It was her grand-daughter’s scream that alerted Bev Lowson to the fire which would eventually destroy their house.
Bev was looking after her four-year-old granddaughter Imi and 17-month-old Aneska on the morning of March 6 at their rental in Golflands while her daughter Tamlyn Boddington had taken her six-year-old Caris to the doctors.
As a startled Bev turned round to see Imi, who was playing with her new toys, she saw that the adjoining area was filled with smoke and the little one was shuffling her feet not knowing how to get out of the room.
Before Bev, a medical receptionist at Crawford Medical Centre, could fully comprehend what was happening, she saw a flicker of light from a vent in the ceiling. There was a big bang! It felt like fireworks, she says.
Shocked, she grabbed Imi in her arms and tried to open the door. She hopelessly struggled with the lock, then found the keys and, with shaking hands, opened the door.
“I don’t remember when and how I picked up the baby from the cot but all I can recall is getting out of the house with both my granddaughters and screaming for help,” she says.
It was all a haze as neighbours rushed out but she clearly recollects a man who was reversing a trailer who ran to her rescue.
“He asked me if there was anyone else inside the house and I told him my two dogs were in the backyard. He tried to open the gate and finally kicked and smashed it open. He was God-sent, a builder who was working at a property down the street and just happened to be passing by. He thankfully returned with both our dogs.”
The house was ablaze but all a distressed Bev could think of was that her two granddaughters were in her arms.
As the fire brigade, ambulance and police arrived, one of the neighbours asked Bev for her daughter’s mobile number to inform Tamlyn that her mum was safe but the house was on fire.
However, when a neighbour did connect with Bev’s daughter, all she could hear was Tamlyn hysterically screaming ‘my babies, my babies’!
Tamlyn had just parked her car to drop her daughter back to school at Elim Christian College junior campus after a doctor’s appointment when she got the devastating news. The neighbour asked her to stay put as she was in no condition to drive.
Soon, the owner of the property arrived and gave Bev a big hug saying how sorry she was.
And while all their lives changed from that moment onwards, Bev says she has been overwhelmed by the love and support of friends and neighbours, her colleagues, school teachers and parents at Elim Christian College, Trinity Kindergarten that Imi goes to and the two churches–River City and Faith City, that Bev and her daughter attend.
She gets emotional as she speaks of how kind strangers have been as they have arranged for a food train; offered to do the washing, given the kids toys, nappies, jackets, strollers. Everything the family is wearing belongs to someone else.
Two of Tamlyn’s friends have also stepped in to take charge. They know how traumatised the family is and created a spreadsheet to coordinate the items that the family needs and people have been happy to donate.
“One of the neighbours has kindly offered to look after our dogs till we find another place to live in four weeks’ time.
“Another friend got our family photographed framed and gave it to us.
“We are deeply grateful and would like to thank the community for their generosity of spirit.”
And while she says that the family will take time to heal—and there are times when Bev gets angry and is heart-broken at the thought of her grandchildren having to go through so much turmoil, she says that they may have lost everything they possessed but they still have their most precious gift– their grandchildren.
“A fireman on site told me that in his 22 years of service he had never seen anyone come out alive from a fire like this. Apparently, the fire had been burning in the roof for two hours before it burst out,” says Bev.
Tamlyn, a physio by profession who just returned from a counselling session for her four-year-old, says while they are currently in survival mode, she believes saying thank you for people’s kindness is just not enough.
“If only they could understand the depth of our feelings in our hearts to say how grateful we are,” she says.