TROY — It was a long wait, but Rita Ferguson and her husband Charles have finally gone back home.
The Fergusons lost their home and all their possessions at 2403 Highland Court in a house fire on Dec. 19. Ferguson described the loss as being one of the worst things she’s ever experienced.
“I had never felt so helpless in my life before after I lost my home and especially after losing my two Chihuahuas, Cocoa and Ginger,” she said. “It happened suddenly, and it is still hard to process.”
The loss of Cocoa and Ginger took the heaviest toll on Ferguson. She referred to her pets as being like children, and tried to save them the day of the fire. The experience was traumatic, with Ferguson sharing that she felt guilty for not being able to rescue and protect them.
However, while they were staying at the hotel, they had learned of a man passing away who left a dog behind. Ferguson got in contact with the man’s family, who was initially concerned about the dog living in a hotel.
“We had a suite, which was two bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen, basically just like an apartment,” she said. “Once we talked to them and got the OK, we brought the little girl home. It doesn’t replace Cocoa and Ginger, but there was such a loss that she’s been able to fill.”
Their new dog, a pug, is named Rosie.
They lived at the Marriott Extended Stay hotel for about five months. Once news of the fire spread to the community, Ferguson said she and her husband began to receive items at their hotel constantly, from the moment they moved in until they moved out.
“We were getting gift cards to restaurants so we could go out to eat, and people were bringing us cookware and toiletries to make up for what we lost,” she said. “There was one day we were wishing we had a home-cooked meal but didn’t have the means to make it ourselves, and we were called down to the front desk. Someone had brought us a meal.”
Another blessing came when the owner of Special Effects Salon and Day Spa invited Ferguson to rent space at the salon so she could continue her massage services business, which she described as being a shock and ultimately helped her quadruple her client base.
“The second the house fire happened, I was no longer able to provide my essential oil body work services, ‘Raindrop’ in our home,” she said. “The money that I made at Special Effects took care of us while we waited for insurance checks to help us survive at the hotel.”
She said Special Effects and its staff became her happy place and often, she did not even want to leave Special Effects and go to her hotel room because it was a constant reminder of losing our home, her dogs dying in the fire and of everything they lost.
It was long wait. Their home had to be gutted, which left behind only the brick and cement slab. Ferguson received the news that Harlow Builders had been able to completely reconstruct their home and that they would be moving back in soon.
“Our home is beautiful,” she said. “Harlow Builders will earn a lifetime of praise and referrals from my husband and I.”
Currently, the Fergusons are in the process of purchasing items for their home they did not receive at the hotel and slowly getting adjusted to the new normal. She described their home as being beautiful, but admitted it was still hard getting settled after what happened.
“I will admit, though our home is beyond extravagant, it is hard to live here with so many haunting memories from the day of the fire,” she said. “Everyday, I am convinced that I smell smoke or a fire and every day I drive up to the house remembering arriving home after being gone just 10 minutes to a house fully engulfed in flames.”
Through it all, she expressed her gratitude to all the people who had helped her and her husband, including Harlow Builders, Special Effects, her pastor Jackie Murray, family, friends and the numerous unknown strangers who helped them.
“With the exception of one person, all of the people who left us items at the hotel did it anonymously,” she said. “The fact that so many strangers were willing to stop and help us meant everything. After God, I’m thankful for what I call the ‘Earth angels’ who came and helped us and want to say ‘thank you.’ Thanks to everyone for all they have done for us.”