A Tignish woman whose family lost their home and belongings to fire on Friday said Tuesday the outpouring of support her family has received “probably brings me more to tears than the devastation and the loss.”
Melissa Handrahan said she, her husband, Scott and their three and a half year-old son, Noah, were visiting with friends when she received the phone call alerting them that their home was on fire.
The year-round winterized cottage on Dune Lane was fully engulfed when firefighters arrived, and the family lost all of their belongings.
Tignish deputy fire chief Shawn A’Hearn said destruction was so severe that the fire investigator might have difficulty pinpointing a cause.
Handrahan said an investigator suggested the cottage, sheathed in pine inside and out would burn quickly.
Among the losses were all of Noah’s Christmas presents.
“The toys that were wrapped the next day and brought for him to kind of forget that he doesn’t have a home anymore, just to keep him busy,” she said in describing the love.
Noah was showered with new Christmas presents, including a Paw Patrol lookout like the one he had received from Santa Claus, and a glow-in-the-dark train set like the one Melissa’s best friend had given to her son.
For Melissa, who moved to P.E.I. from Toronto seven years ago, such a showing of support was unheard of. “I’m really, really blown away.”
“What an awesome, awesome place to live. I don’t even have words for the people here: people I’ve never met before coming out and lending a hand,” she marveled.
There were bags upon bags of clothing dropped off – winter coats and boots, hats, snow pants and more – for all members of the family.
“The community is full of angels. That’s all I can describe it,” she said.
“We have more food now than I ever had even before this tragedy started,” she said.
“Hugs and tears and people feeling my pain and comforting me, and sitting with me,” she continued” and babysitting my child, just so I can have a little bit of time to go and speak to the insurance adjusters or the fire marshal or whatever. “
Family friend, Jessica Dorgan-Trail, has witnessed how the community support has assisted the Handrahans through their tragedy. She said it was not a coordinated activity, just a community rallying behind someone in need. “That’s just where we live,” she said.
Scott and Melissa have not shared with Noah that their home burned to the ground and they don’t plan to take him to their 215 Dune Lane property, preferring to spare him the trauma. Through time, she said, they will explain to him they are taking up temporary housing while they build a new home.
She’s hoping to rebuild on the same property.
“My only desire now is to try to give back to the community after the love that I felt. I felt like I belong here and I feel like I want to contribute here and I feel like I want to do more.
“I‘m really, really touched and I am so glad, and I think I’m blessed, that I picked this spot for a reason.”