By Kathi Bliss
When Mia Rosa set out to cook dinner for her family on Sept. 24, she had no idea that her whole life was about to change.
While she was preparing a meal for her husband and their five children, a small fire sparked on the stove, which would within moments engulf the kitchen, and eventually the rest of the family’s home on Thompson Road in Dale.
“My oldest son and I tried to put it out with a towel and things,” she said. “But it just spread too quick. He got a few burns on his arms, but the next thing we knew, it had set fire to the wall and I just had to get myself and my kids out of there.”
Rosa gathered her children, ranging in ages from 3 – 17, and shuffled them out of the house with only the clothes they had on their backs. Although the Dale volunteer fire department responded, she said, the fire moved quickly and destroyed everything the family owns.
“We’re very lucky,” she said as her three-year-old son toyed with her keychain in her lap. “No one got hurt, and we all got out. But we lost everything – the kids’ baby pictures, their birth certificates; videos and pictures of the trip we took them on to Florida… everything.”
Rosa and her husband, along with the five children, have been living in a South Austin hotel since the fire, but said they are looking for a place to live in Caldwell County, preferably within the Lockhart Independent School District.
“My son is a senior, and I don’t want him to have to change schools in his senior year,” she said. “It’s important for us to keep things as normal and happy for them right now as we can. There in the hotel, we watch movies, we play games and read… we’re just trying to tell them that it’s going to be okay.”
Rosa said there are moments when she feels defeated, but she turns to her faith in God, and refuses to allow her children to see her worry.
“The people in the schools and at the church have been great, and I know that it’s going to be worse for the kids if they see me sad or crying about it.”
Rosa said the family was relying in large part on the kindness of strangers as they go about the business of rebuilding their lives.
“It’s difficult to find a place to rent, when there are seven of you,” she said. “So that’s been taking up a lot of our time. Other than that, we’re also trying to figure out ways to pay for our medications, to get clothes on the kids… my husband and I aren’t worried about ourselves, but we don’t want the kids to have to feel shame when they go to school, to feel like they’re different.”
Rosa said the family’s medications were also lost in the fire, and that two of her children are medicated for disabilities. Her 16-year-old daughter takes Wellbutrin, while one of her sons has been prescribed Adderal for attention deficit – hyperactive disorder. Rosa herself takes Lexapro for anxiety.
“Really, we don’t even know where to start,” she said. “We know some people in Dale, but because we’re out in the country, and because we go to church every Sunday in Austin… we don’t really know who, her in Lockhart, to turn to.”
Already, staff members at Lockhart High School, where Rosa’s elder children are enrolled, have opened an account at First Lockhart-National Bank where donations are being accepted to help the family pay the expenses of medications, clothing, and finding a new home.
However, Rosa said, she isn’t sure what else to do. With the help of some neighbors and members of her church, she has planned a bake sale at the Wal-Mart in Lockhart on Saturday morning. She has also asked those willing in the community to help her children by donating clothing and other items.
“My little ones were in their underwear when we pulled them out of there,” she said. “And so they don’t have really anything. The American Red Cross came, but they only provide a certain amount of clothes, and there are seven of us, so my kids have been wearing the same clothes [almost daily since the fire].”
Rosa has four sons, age 17, 9, 5, and 3, and one daughter, 16. She said she and her husband are not interested in asking for donations of clothing for themselves, but are comfortable asking the community to donate on behalf of their children.
“We don’t need anything,” she said. “We don’t want to want anything for ourselves – we just want life to get back to normal for the kids.”
For information on donating to the Rosa family, or to find out the children’s sizes, please contact Kathi Bliss at the Lockhart Post-Register.