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Balloon release honors Gladewater wildfire victims

By Christina Lane
Sept. 18, 2012 at 10 p.m.


GLADEWATER - If Jane McBride's daughter was with her today, she'd simply tell her that she loves her.

Just a couple of weeks after the one-year anniversary of her daughter's and granddaughter's deaths in a wildfire, McBride and her family, neighbors and friends sent messages of love to heaven for Valerie and K'loe McBride.

Valerie McBride, 20, and her 19-month old daughter, K'loe, died in what is referred to as the Moore fire - one of the first East Texas wildfires in this past year's outbreak.

On Tuesday, Jane McBride hosted a balloon release at the family property on Lincoln Springs Road.

"I'm excited to see the balloons go up," she said. "I enjoy doing it. It's fun and I think it helps everybody, one way or another, in their battle."

Valerie's twin brother, Greg McBride, said he came to the event to support his family, particularly his mother.

"Seeing how strong she's been through all of this has made me want to be just as strong," he said.

McBride said it was difficult turning 21 this past year without his sister. Their mother used to get them together for their birthday.

If Valerie was still alive, McBride said he, too, would tell her "I love you."

"We didn't say it enough," he said.

Neighbor Wanda Jones attended the balloon release. She lost a barn and a shed in the wildfire last year; however, her home and another small shed remained standing. She said the fire came within 3 feet of her home, but never touched the building.

Living on the property for the past 14 years, Jones said she watched the McBride children grow up.

"It was hard to deal with there for a while," she said. "It was hard to look up here. I'm just the neighbor. I can't imagine what the family went through."

The past year has been filled with grieving and healing for the McBrides. On Nov. 20, the family released balloons into the air at the property to celebrate Valerie's 21st birthday. One of the balloons was found 936 miles away in Kannapolis, N.C.

Messages were attached to the balloons released Tuesday, asking people who found them to email the family. It allows the family to share their story and heal.

Jane McBride said she believes her daughter would have been a good mother because she'd already exhibited the traits. She would have liked to have seen Valerie fall in love with a "good boy" who would have treated her as she deserved and would have liked to have seen her daughter have a good life.

"I'd tell her, I love you," McBride said. "I may not always agree with the choices you make, but I will always be here for you - no matter what."

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