Spending Christmas in Ashes

By: Keith Jones Email
By: Keith Jones Email

One family in Rockingham County had planned to spend Monday preparing for a Christmas Eve dinner. Instead, they spent it sorting through rubble and burned gifts after their home burned down Monday morning.

Despite their losses, Christmas will go on. The Shifflett family's home in Briery Branch is now just a black mess, but the family escaped without injury.

On Tuesday, they'll experience a truly unique Christmas, one in which they will be without a home and without a tree, but not without each other.

"Not real sure. Just had a fire, it started," says Shelia Shifflett. "We tried to contain it, but we couldn't get it contained. It just brought the whole house down."

Her hands are covered in ash, she hasn't slept, and her house with everything she owned in it is gone. As Sheila tells her son what clothes to buy at Wal-Mart she realizes they're lucky to still have each other.

"We had neighbors, close neighbors, far away neighbors that have shown up on the doorstep, which is not there anymore. They have brought gifts and asked what can we do for you," says Sheila.

They put clothes in one bag and burned gifts in another, but boxes were reserved for the real treasure: the family photo albums.

Sheila says, "One of the most material things that we got were our pictures, family pictures when I was a child, when my dad was a child, and then of my boys when they were little."

In the past 24 hours, Shelia and her family know that despite the obstacles, life goes on.

She says, "In fact, we were going to have dinner here tonight with 30 of us here. We're putting it together at my brother's house and we told him that if we get there later we'll go, but the family is still having the get together, and they know we'll be there if we can get there."

Local fire departments are still investigating the cause of the blaze, but the Shifflett family is focused on Christmas. Together they'll clean up the debris, gather what they can, and start over. It'll be a long process, but Shelia says the important thing is they're together.

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