By Stan Friedman
SAGINAW, MN (September 19, 2011) – Brad Shannon, pastor of New Life Covenant Church, chokes up as he describes the assistance community members have provided his family since their house burned to the ground Saturday morning.
“I’ve had 80-year-old women come up to me and hand me a $100 bill,” says Shannon. “You don’t even know how to manage that.”
A fire that broke out early Saturday morning destroyed the home while Shannon, his wife, Brooke, and their three children were at a family cabin about two hours away.
The family left the house around 5 p.m. Friday. The fire apparently broke out between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. and burned through the rest of the night, Shannon says.
The house is located in a rural area 18 miles northwest of Duluth. Although neighbors live nearby, nobody noticed the fire because of the late hour it ignited, Shannon says.
A FedEx driver making a delivery reported the fire around 9 a.m. Saturday. Smoke was pouring from the basement. Only the chimney remains standing.
“The fire chief said he hasn’t seen anything like it,” says Shannon.
Grand Lake Township Fire Chief Dewey Johnson wasn’t able to contact the Shannons until late Saturday morning. “He called and was frantic,” Shannon says. “He wouldn’t say what happened, just that we needed to get back right away.”
When they arrived two hours later, they were met by many members of the church and other individuals from the community. “To walk out of your car and have people there to embrace you was powerful,” Shannon says.
The community has donated clothes and other items. “They have been remarkable,” Shannon says. “We honestly feel a deep sense of gratitude for all they have done”
The family also is grateful to the Red Cross, he says. “They were right there with a check” so that the Shannons could purchase items such as toiletries and basic clothing.
Shannon says the contributions from everyone have been humbling – an outpouring of love. He says he feels fortunate, pointing out that during the last two days, the family has received more tangible items than at least 90 percent of the people in the world have to live on.
The church, which averages between 100 and 120 people in attendance, held its regular worship service on Sunday. During the first five minutes, Brad and Brooke shared what was happening in their lives.
A member of the congregation posted on the church blog that “the Shannons preached the most powerful sermon in their lives by the manner in which they responded to the total loss of their home by fire16 hours previous.”
The congregation closed the service by singing, “Praise to the Lord the Almighty.” Shannon adds, “It was a wonderful service.”
Although the family is moving forward with gratitude, their emotions are “all over the place,” and the pain of loss won’t go away any time soon. “We loved our house,” Shannon says.
“There are things you can’t get back,” Shannon says. Among them is furniture that has been in the family for several generations, including a cradle his great grandmother had slept in.
The family is staying in a Duluth hotel and probably will move to another in the next several days while they consider their options, Shannon says. “I’m really not sure what our plan is.”
Buying a trailer to put on their property is one of the options being considered because rental property in the rural area is difficult to find. It will be at least a year before the family can have a house rebuilt, Shannon says.
The family’s two older children, seven-year-old J and five-year-old Ryan, already have returned to school. “They’re doing great,” says Shannon. “Kids can teach you a lot.”
The youngest child, Katie, is one year old.
The state fire marshal has been called to investigate the cause the blaze.
Editor’s note: Photos courtesy of Todd Shannon.