Hobbsans thankful to be alive following house fire
Casey Gonzalez was at Nor-Lea Hospital Saturday evening as her husband Leroy was getting his painful knee examined.
She answered her ringing phone to the sounds of a crazed individual — her son Diego Hernandez.
“Mom! My friend just called! Our house is on fire!”
In a calm voice Casey quickly asked where Diego and her other son, Josiah, were and if they were safe. She patiently listened as her son frantically explained they were at a local restaurant with some other friends and were driving to their house, located on the 2500 block of North Houston.
“I told him, ‘No worries. Calm down. You’re not home. We’re not home. Everything else is replaceable. We’re OK. We are leaving the hospital right now and we will be there as soon as we can. It’s going to be OK,’” she said.
Then a friend of hers called to check on her.
“That’s when I lost it,” Casey said with a laugh. “I screamed, “No! Go check on my kids! Go check on my house! It’s on fire!”
Casey then burst through a hospital doorway looking for Leroy as if she were on flames, “Our house is on fire! We have to go!”
“I went running through the hospital looking for Leroy,” she said with a laugh. “He had just finished getting an MRI and all of the nurses were shocked and asking us if we were OK.”
Leroy took the news while sitting in a wheelchair wearing a hospital gown.
“I still don’t know what the results of the tests are,” Leroy said of his MRI. “We didn’t stick around to find out. It wasn’t that important at the moment.”
Neither was the fact that their house and mostly everything in it was consumed by flames. By the time the Hobbs couple got home, Diego and Josiah were wrapped in blankets and being consoled by their friends.
“There were police, fire trucks and ambulances there,” Leroy said. “All of our family and our neighbors were outside. All these people everywhere and they were all there to give support. The fire was pretty much out and firefighters were checking for hotspots and things like that.”
The house is a total loss. Fire investigators discovered the blaze started in a front bedroom, but its cause is still not known. Leroy said a neighbor smelled smoke coming from the house and called 911. The neighbor then went into the house to see if anyone was home.
“From what I was told, the fire department showed up real fast,” Leroy said. “They did an amazing job with the whole thing.”
For Casey just seeing her boys alive and well was all that mattered. She and Leroy each have children from previous relationships, but none together. They both knew that Leroy’s two children were out of town visiting their mother and Casey’s older child doesn’t live with them. So as they raced to Hobbs, all she could think about was the safety of Diego, age 18, and Josiah, age 16.
The root of her anxiety comes from a past trauma she and her sons experienced. In 2006, they were in a car accident that claimed the life of one of her sons, Manuel Hernandez III, at age 13. So despite talking to Diego, she needed to see both of them with her own eyes.
As for Diego and Josiah, laughter seems to be their best coping mechanism. Casey said that when a situation like a house fire happens there’s really nothing much they can do but laugh. Still, giving what they went through at a younger age, they kept their reality in check.
“We were upset, but it could have been worse. We’ve been through a lot worse,” Diego said. “So it was blessing that no one was home and we knew that everything was going to be taken care of and be OK.”
Another hint toward that understanding came when Casey and Leroy first looked into their charred home and saw Manuel’s memorial was mostly unharmed. The plastic cover for his poster-sized photo had melted some, but the picture was untouched. So were the drumsticks and the home run baseball he hit, which was signed by his teammates.
“It’s really weird that the photo didn’t get touched that bad,” Leroy said. “Everything else in the living room was badly burned. For that memorial to not be burned, we are all so thankful.”
Thankful is what the family is feeling 48 hours after the fire. Thankful that they are all safe and thankful for the amount of support they have received. The local Red Cross put them in a hotel for the past couple of nights and got them some supplies. The boys — who are members of the Hobbs High School cheerleading squad — spent Sunday in Lubbock on a shopping spree for new clothes with their fellow squad members. That’s just an inkling of the kind of the support that family has received.
“I don’t have the words to explain it,” Casey said. “We have been so blessed by not just our family and friends, but by strangers who have reached out to help us. It’s been amazing.”
Casey and Leroy spent Monday morning shopping for a trailer house that could eventually be their new home. A GoFundMe page has been established with the funding going toward that new home. Called “family home lost in fire” the page has raised $3,810 toward its $5,000 goal as of Monday evening.
“Until we get a new home we are going to be living with my mom,” Casey said. “She has opened her house to us and we are so thankful. We are also so thankful for everyone who has helped us. This is truly a special community that we live in.”
Todd Bailey can be reached at .