Tragedy brings family closer together

Tragedy brings family closer together

December 30th, 2012 by Shelly Bradbury in Local Regional News

Sharon Pitmon, right, sits on the couch in the living room of her family's new home as her children (from left) David Gladden, Deasia Gladden, niece Uzziah Hall and daughter Teonna Gladden watch TV Saturday afternoon. Pitmon's home and belongings were destroyed in a house fire in late November, and some of the children had to escape out a window and off the porch roof.

Photo by Allison Love /Times Free Press.

It's been a month since 4-year-old Makiyah Gladden was forced to climb out a window onto the roof of her family's house and jump off to escape a fast-moving fire - but she still dreams about a little girl who is caught in flames.

"It doesn't seem to bother her, but she seems surprised that she is dreaming it," said Makiyah's mom, Sharon Pitmon. "She says, 'The girl, she was in the fire -- but she got out, though.'"

Makiyah and three of her siblings -- 3-year-old David Gladden, 6-year-old Deasia Gladden and 15-year-old Eddie Pitmon -- were caught in a house fire Nov. 27 at 703 Caruthers Road.

Eddie guided the younger kids away from the flames, broke a window and got everyone onto the roof of the back porch, where they jumped to safety.

The family was uninsured and lost all their possessions but escaped with mostly minor injuries. Eddie cut his leg, went through surgery and received a skin graft -- and is supposed to be using crutches still.

"He's supposed to be, but he isn't," Sharon Pitmon said with a laugh. "You know how 15-year-olds are."

The rental house at 703 Caruthers was torn down last week. The family is renting a three-bedroom duplex from the Chattanooga Housing Authority.

It was almost completely furnished when they arrived -- couch, armchair, the kids' beds, the rug, pillows, blankets -- all donated.

"It's overwhelming; I laugh and I cry," Sharon Pitmon said. "It's a big help. You don't think the community will come out and help like that. I want to say thank you to everyone."

They've spent the month settling in. Sharon Pitmon left her job as a gas station cashier -- the day after the fire, a staffing agency called and offered her a job at Volkswagen inspecting bumpers.

The Forgotten Child Fund's Santa Train, which delivers toys to needy families on Christmas Eve, made a stop at the family's new place last week, and the kids zipped around the house on scooters and tricycles Saturday afternoon, listening to music on donated MP3 players and iPods.

Everyone is dealing with the fire in a unique way -- Makiyah doesn't like to talk about it, but Deasia recounts the events with a touch of pride.

"I got off the roof by myself," she tells people.

Eddie and David have formed a special bond, their mom said. David was the last kid to get out of the house, and Sharon Pitmon believes he only made it because Eddie guided him to the window.

"David's throat was swollen, and he was starting to panic in there," she said.

Even 11-year-old Teonna Gladden, who wasn't home when the fire broke out, remembers getting off the bus and seeing her sisters -- their faces black with soot -- in the back of a police car.

And Eddie just wants to move on.

"I'm just trying to forget it, just trying to forget," he said. "Just because, it's over -- and I'm just trying to forget it."

Life is almost back to normal, he said. While he can't replace the awards he lost -- like one he got in seventh grade for football -- he's grateful for the donated goods they've received.

"I want to say thank you to everybody who helped," he said. "Thank y'all for caring."

Sharon Pitmon takes extra safety precautions now and keeps a close eye out for warning signs of a fire.

"I'll never move into an old house again," she said.

Even after receiving $1,000 from the Red Cross and countless donations from the community, she still spent about $4,000 replacing what she calls 'the little stuff' -- sneakers, jackets, kitchen utensils, shelves, books, towels.

But all in all, the fire brought the family closer together, she added.

"Now we spend more time together," she said. "Eddie used to want to leave and go out -- you know how teenagers are -- but now he stays and watches after them."