NORTH LIBERTY — It is easy to say that a fire destroys, that it can burn up your home and all your possessions.
But sometimes a fire gives something, too.
Now that fire is over, now that she’s staying with relatives while looking for a new home for herself, her two kids and her “significant other,” Andrea Ottinger knows what a fire can do.
It can give you perspective, she said, and a sense of gratitude. It can make you happy just to have your family, even if you have none of your things.
A fire, Ottinger said, can make you realize how many friends you truly have, even when they refuse to be recognized.
On Christmas Eve, Ottinger and two other families lost their homes when a fire broke out at North Liberty’s Taylor Apartments.
All three homes were completely destroyed, and, Ottinger said, the only things salvageable from her home were a few clothes.
Gone were the Christmas presents. Gone was the furniture. Gone was the family’s sense of safety.
Replaced with a sense of what is really important.
“My 5-year-old son said, ‘I’m not crying, mom, because Santa’s a nice guy and he’ll bring stuff next year.’ ”
Ottinger said she has been amazed at the outpouring from friends, family and neighbors — many who have donated things anonymously as her family and the other families struggle to find new homes.
A donation fund has also been established at area Teachers Credit Unions, allowing anyone to make a donation to the Taylor Apartment Fire, with donations going to help cover expenses of all three displaced families.
But still, there are challenges. Ottinger said she’s having trouble finding a place to stay large enough for her four-member family. She worries about telling her kids too much, afraid she’ll scare them into believing their new home will burn, too.
Mostly, however, she feels blessed by something that most people would call a disaster.
“I just want to say a huge thanks to all the people who have stepped up, I couldn’t believe how many people wanted to be anonymous, but who sent things to help out,” Ottinger said. “I just want to find a way to tell them all thank you.”
Staff writer Dave Stephens: