Three generations of the family who died when their Tyler home caught on fire in February. The tragedy prompted the Red Cross campaign “Sound the Alarm, Save a Life.” Its goal was to install smoke detectors in every home that needs them.
On a cold February night, the fire started in the living room and quickly spread. Although three relatives died, two children survived. While the family says that night is still a blur, the memories of the loved ones lost are clear as day.
“Get to the house, my mom’s house is on fire,” remembers Charles Brown when he received a phone call that night.
“Everybody, they were just getting everybody out the house,” continues Courtney Brown-Harper, as she pulled up in front of her mother’s home, “everything was a priority. It’s my family. I wanted to make sure everybody was fine and out of the house.”
“I was hoping it was a little house fire,” explains Brown, who soon realized it wasn’t, “when I turned around the corner, I saw all the fire trucks and my mind went blank.”
The entire family worried, not knowing what was happening inside the house.
“They wouldn’t let me go near it. No, you can’t go, and I said but that’s my child, I need to find out what’s going on. That’s why you can’t go,” remembers Juanita Anderson, as she worried about her only child.
Sharon Brown, Chris Anderson, and Cambryn-Euniece Anderson, where three generations of the Anderson family that died.
Now, family members remember the legacy each one of them left behind.
“She was a helping hand. Growing up, she was willing to help any and everybody and then after hearing stories So many people said she would open up her house to them, feed them, clothes, whatever they needed, she helped. Just being a friend and being a pioneer in the community, just willing to help and have an open house and willing to help anybody,” says Courtney Harper-Brown, as she describes her mother, Sharon Brown.
Sharon lived in the house with one of her sons Chris, who also died.
“Chris was a special kind of child, he was special. Different from most kids you know, he was just a different child. Somebody you could depend on,” describes Juanita Anderson, his grandmother.
“He always made a friend, he never had an enemy. Everybody knew Chris from his classmates to people at his job, everywhere in Tyler. They all knew he lived animals and his favorite mascot was Bevo from Texas Longhorns. He knew all the mascots from all the colleges in the United States, every last one of them,” remembers his brother, Charles.
Chris was a fan of not only football but his baby niece who also died in the fire.
“Every time you would see mom, you would see Cambryn, in her lap or hanging on Chris’ leg, but you know she loved all her siblings and her cousin. She was a happy baby,” says Brown-Harper.
“That was my little cupcake. So every time I see her I would say hey cupcake and she was smiling,” explains Charles.
The tragedy that happened on Grand Ave sparked something in the Tyler Fire Department. So they went knocking on doors in the neighborhood, making sure every single house had a smoke alarm to help prevent a house fire.
“I think it was very impactful what they were doing for the community, to make sure it doesn’t happen again and give people warning, hey this is what you need and this is how you do it. So, that this can be prevented from happening,” says Brown-Harper.
However, what ignited this accident remains a mystery.
“They have not been able to determine the cause of it. They don’t know what caused it, they don’t know what caused it, or how it happened,” says Anderson.
Questions unanswered, leaving a day where mothers are honored, hard to get through.
“It was a challenging day. We came together and made it happen, went to church. We all just met up at the cemetery,” says Brown-Harper.
Together with the Anderson family still celebrated a mother and a daughter for Juanita Anderson.
“I take all the cards and I put them up on the wall so I can go back and look at them and see. So, I have her last signature from last year,” says Anderson.
Now together, they are trusting in their faith.
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not on thy own understanding in all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy path,” a verse Juanita Anderson says constantly, “regardless of what it is, what you’re going through, how it happened, whatever it is trust in him.”
Still grieving, this family leans on each other.
Two other children were in the house at the time of the fire. They were sent to a hospital in Fort Worth. The mother says both are happy and healthy, but they never forget about their sister who died.