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Photo Gallery | Photos: LaQuinta Inn Thanksgiving Day Fire

Thanksgiving Day afternoon:  The weather was nice for November with a slight breeze a clear sky... except around 2 p.m. when a black billow of gray smoke rose into the skyline in the Centerville area. 

There were no sirens, so my initial thought from my K-Mart vantage point was probably someone doing a leaf burn.  About 30 minutes later, as I headed West on Watson Blvd, I saw the large black clouds of smoke alternating with the grey.  When I pulled into the Kroger on Watson at Willie Lee for gas, there it was... and sirens everywhere with streets blocked off.  The La Quinta hotel was ablaze and you could see the streams of water from firehoses.  I went home, got my camera and recorded numerous shots from various vantage points.

It was encouraging as I moved around to learn of several displaced guests and that it appeared everyone was evacuated.  (I later learned a dog had perished.)

Someone pointed toward a lady with a dog and said they managed to get out and they were on the 3rd floor on the end where it appears the fire started. There was no one seeking anyone out... no one trying to identify who might have been guest to say where to go or what to do.  If you did not ask, there was no way to see who was affected and who was just there looking on; no one was wailing or appeared distraught; they simply looked on.

 One family visiting from Florida said another family member who was staying at the Candelwood across the street called them and said the hotel was on fire and to get out.

They scrambled to get the kids and Grandma  and just ran, unsure of which way to go but remembering not to take the elevater from their 3rd floor room.  She expressed gratitude, from a stranger who gave her flip-flops for her bare feet, to knowing they were all safe, even as the reality of iPads, car keys, money and the like were left behind!

Another resident shielded the sun from her eyes as she watched; she was having dinner at her son's nearby when she learned of the fire.  She had no idea where to go, who to see or what to do, but watch.

As I was leaving, I sought out the lady originally pointed out to me with the dog. 

She, an infant and another lady with the dog were sitting on the curb.  Her husband had gone to see if he could figure out what was to happen next.  They just relocated here from the Detroit area for her husband's new job repairing x-ray equipment around the state.  

The friend came along to help and was now wondering about medicines she needed, lost ID, plane tickets and how she'd be able to get home without it.  The Mom had a bag of diapers, a jug of water and a hoodie they grabbed to wrap around the baby; he had no other clothers or shoes. And through it all, she still managed to smile as she lovingly looked at her baby, and I'm sure she was counting her blessings and giving thanks they all were well.

I assured her they'd move to a caring community which they were marveling over already by someone giving them some of what they had with them, another lady promising to return with an infant seat, and even the 13 WMAZ reporter said her mom was asking what this family needed.

When her husband returned, he got a room at the Candlewood, who waived the pet fee.

I tried to reassure them that they would be helped, including support form the red Cross for whatever the need was. 

There is never a good time to have a tragedy strike.  But if one had to befall you on this day of all days, I was so heartened by the generosity that never seems to amaze me in this community, and all the gratitude that seemed to exude from everyone; not one bitter pill did I hear.  We all have so much to be thankful for but it's at time like this that truly put it directly into perspective.

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