Jed Hannigan says he’s a blessed man. He says it with deep conviction, even as he talks about the devastating fire that destroyed his rental home and left him and his family without clothes, furniture or even a toothbrush; and he sees the blessings despite the fact that two days after the fire the few remaining appliances not swept up by the blaze were stolen from the charred remains of his home.
“It’s real painful,” Hannigan admitted during an interview Thursday at Bojangles, just a stone’s throw from the motel room where he and his family have been staying since the fire. “But I have a lot to be thankful for, I really do.”
He’s thankful for the Red Cross, which swooped in to help immediately after the blaze, putting the family of four up in the motel room for the first three days and providing them with a $115 food voucher. And he’s “mighty appreciative,” too of help from the Sampson County Crisis Center, which took over lodging expenses from the Red Cross and has offered assistance with his first month’s rent once a new home has been secured.
His church, Covenant of Love in Fayetteville, has also helped with the lodging, and Hannigan, himself, took money from his dwindling funds to pay for a couple of nights at the motel, too.
“See, it could be a lot worse. We could be on the street,” the optimistic Hannigan said, the pain still apparent in red eyes that have shed tears and spent sleepless nights of late.
“And that fire could have happened at night when we were all asleep. That could have been real bad. I could have lost a lot more than my possession … that I couldn’t have taken,” he acknowledged.
The fire happened last Wednesday, Nov. 7, around noon. His girlfriend, Tamika Pickett, who he plans to marry in the very near future, was home alone, preparing to take a nap before heading off to Fayetteville State, where she is a full-time student. Her two boys, James, 13, and Jordan, 7, were at school.
“She heard this loud pop, and by the time she got to the living room she said the flames were 3 feet tall. It was just a blink of an eye, about 30 second to a minute, really, and the house was going up in flames.”
Pickett, who also works part-time at Mary Gran, was able to escape unharmed.
“I’m so thankful for that. God is good and he looks after us,” Hannigan stressed.
At work at Southeast Foundation when the fire erupted, Hannigan said when he found out about what had happened, he immediately rushed home, tearing the transmission out of his vehicle in the process.
“I had taken my phone off because the work I do is pretty intensive. By the time I picked it up again at lunch time, I had 14 missed calls. I knew something bad was wrong. When I found out, I flew home and, in the process, messed up my car. Sometimes when it rains, it really pours.”
Roseboro Fire Department reports show the blaze ignited from a gas heater that had an electric blower. The blower reportedly shorted out and, Hannigan said, the gas just fueled the fire.
The 1,200 square foot home was declared a total loss.
“At first, you know, you don’t think it’s real. You don’t think it’s happening to you. Then it sinks in and you are devastated. I couldn’t even bear to look at it (the house). We work hard and try to do right, and my first thought, naturally, was why,” Hannigan acknowledged.
But he reached inside to his faith for the strength he needed, a strength, he said, he had to have for Pickett and the two boys. “They’re my family; I had to be strong for them. And, you know, God gives you that strength and he allowed me to see through my pain to find the blessings.”
And those blessings came, Hannigan said, one after the other. “The Red Cross was there within two hours of the fire and they helped us find lodging. Then the Crisis Center helped and our church. Really, we’ve been very blessed. There are still many things we need, but I believe the Lord will provide.”
He had no renter’s insurance and there were few possessions to salvage from the charred home, and the ones that were left untouched by the fire — a stove, a dryer, a washing machine and his boys’ bicycles — were stolen on Saturday.
“I really couldn’t believe it. The fire was tough to take but then when someone took what few things we had left, it was devastating, especially to the boys. They’d held up pretty good after the fire. They cried when they saw the house, but, overall, they’d been pretty strong. But when they found out someone had taken their bikes, that just broke their hearts. They cried and cried. It was the last thing of theirs that they had.”
But even the crime didn’t shake Hannigan’s faith. “There’s so many good people out there, the bad ones become irrelevant. And there have been a lot of good people out there already trying to help us.”
He’s found a home to rent and is in the process of gathering the $1,200 deposit and the first month’s rent, and he’s confident both will be accomplished soon.
“We have the motel room until Monday. There’s been a lot of paperwork to fill out, but we are about there on getting the house. We still lack a little bit to have the deposit, but we’re getting there.”
Unable to work for the past week because he’s had to deal with so many things related to the fire and its aftermath, Hannigan admitted his funds are now running low.
“We need pretty much everything, from clothes to appliances, heck even more toothbrushes. It’s hard to say, but right now we are pretty much dependent upon donations.”
Hannigan said he’s thankful for everything that’s been done for he and his family so far, and he knows God will help them find their way and the help they need.
“You never think you’ll find yourself in this situation. I believe I’m supposed to take care of my own, but now, it’s just hard … really hard. I’m doing all I can do, but I look around, and we need so much. But, I know God works in certain ways and he’ll make sure we are OK.
“People have already been so good. My family has been wonderful and people I don’t even know … and I’m so thankful. I really can’t express just how thankful I truly am. It’s been bad, but there are so many that have it far worse than we do, even now.”
His hope is to have his family in a new rental home by Thanksgiving so they can share a meal together. “We just want to feel normal again, to be able to sit around the table, share a meal, say a blessing.”
And he again stresses that he is thankful, first to God and then to those who have been placed in his path to help him along the way.
“This has really opened my eyes to many things,” Hannigan said. “I go to church, I make my tithes … but this has strengthened my faith in ways I can’t explain and it’s shown me good in people. Sure we need a lot and we’ve been through a lot, but I just believe everything will work out, and I’m thankful.
“See I really am blessed.”
He plans to marry Pickett in the very near future. “I think it’s the right thing to do in God’s eyes, to make us a true family in every way, to be a family the way it should be.”
And he sees his family only growing stronger because of the trials they’ve now faced.
“We will get through this with God’s help and with the help of this wonderful community. Just that knowledge is a blessing,” Hannigan said.
Anyone wishing to help can call Hannigan at 910-214-4429.