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Wildfire took home, but not spirit, of East Texas couple

By Hannah DeClerk
Oct. 20, 2011 at 10 p.m.

JEFFERSON - As Terry Moore surveyed the scorched dry ground, large piles of tar-like rubble and the barren vegetation that used to surround her Jefferson area home, she stopped and pointed to a bright green cactus she has displayed at the front of her property.

"It's a sign that says, 'The Moores are finally home,' " Moore said.

The green steel cactus, one of the few remnants of what was once the Moores' home, has been proudly placed into the scorched, dry ground.

"My dad made it a hobby to make items out of steel, and that was the first thing I did after the fire, was paint it green," she said.

Terry Moore and her husband, Cecil Moore, lost their home this past month to the devastating wildfires that scorched more than 52,000 acres in East Texas.

Their home on a two-acre property about nine miles from Jefferson on Shady Grove Road was destroyed in less than 10 minutes Sept. 6.

"We had a beautiful A-frame home that was built by my mother and father from the ground up," Moore said. "We owned it for 22 years. Our children grew up in the home."

She and her husband were enjoying their Labor Day weekend away from home when they received a call from a neighbor informing them of the Cass County fire that was heading directly toward their house.

"They told us we had half an hour to get all of our belongings, so we attached our travel trailer to the back of our truck, and then filled three large garbage bags full of belongings," she said. "It was like everything was going in slow motion."

She said was able to grab important items, including photographs and her family's heirloom jewelry.

She was not, however, able to salvage an antique rocking chair that belonged to her grandmother or her great-grandmother's hutch.

"My mother had died on Aug. 1, and I had just brought a lot of my mother's belongings to my home to store," she said. "And those are two things you cannot replace. "

She estimated they lost about $30,000 worth of items that they had accumulated over the years.

"We had everything. When you are married that long, and your kids are gone, you accumulate a lot of stuff," she said. "I felt like it was such a waste. I wish I could have said, 'Everybody come take something because I am about to lose it all.' "

Cecil Moore said if he could do the day over again, he would have stayed and alerted the firefighters.

"I could have saved the house if I would have just stayed and tried to alert somebody to get help," he said.

Once they left their property, they did not look back and continued driving to a camp site at Johnson's Creek, Terry Moore said.

"I never cried," she said. "At one point I hyperventilated when I found out my home was gone. And I got really nervous. I don't know why, but I felt really nervous, but never cried."

For the next month, the husband and wife lived on the property in their travel trailer, which had a small shower and bathroom.

"We like camping, so it was not so bad," she said. "Plus we didn't have hardly anything to put in it, so it wasn't like we were crammed."

She said it was also difficult finding storage space for the items donated by volunteer organizations.

"If somebody gave you something, you had nothing to store it in, so we had to go purchase a storage unit and place it on our property," she said.

She said it was the search for a storage unit in Tyler that led her and her husband to find a 1,500-square-foot manufactured home.

"I am never the type of person to want to live in a mobile home, but we needed to move out of that trailer quickly, and when I saw that house, I knew it was perfect for us," she said.

This past week, she and her husband were able to move the trailer back onto their property, and Wednesday, their new home was installed.

"Do I think about how we could have stayed and tried to help save our house instead of evacuate? Sure I do," Terry Moore said. "But you know, we got out of the way, we got a new home."

She said even though they are lucky enough to be able to move into a new house a month after the disaster, their struggles are far from over.

Though FEMA provided $30,200 for a down payment on the new home, the couple has had to clean out their savings in order to replace what was lost.

"Our savings are gone, I can guarantee you," she said. "But you just can't let this get you down. We are survivors, we have to move on, and that is the truth."

She said the disaster has caused them to have a different outlook on life and live by a new motto of, "What is new today, could be gone tomorrow."

"I still have my husband, my children and my granddaughter," she said. "We don't need a bunch of stuff anymore. If I could ask for anything, it would be to please pray for us. Don't forget about all of the victims of the fires, and please pray for us."



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