By Ken MacLeod

TOWNSEND (CBS) – Laurette Pierre stood in the dark outside the burned shell of her apartment building Tuesday night, sorting through soggy items that her cousin ferried out of her charred third floor apartment.

There wasn’t much salvageable. Some clothes and some of her young daughter’s books.

The Haitian immigrant had only recently purchased a bunch of new furnishings. “I just feel sick,” says Pierre. “I’m shaking and I don’t feel good.”

Laurette Pierre’s cousin carries clothes out of burned Townsend apartment (WBZ-TV)

She’s got plenty of company. She was one of 43 residents chased from her building at the Pine Ridge Estates Monday night by a four-alarm blaze that apparently started in a bathroom wall.

Fire Chief Mark Boynton says it wasn’t suspicious, but the stubborn flames drew a hundred firefighters from several neighboring towns.

And almost right away, the people of Townsend rallied around them. “This is just what we do,” says Pastor Kevin Patterson of the First Baptist Church of West Townsend. “When something happens the community comes together. That’s who we are as a town.”

Indeed, St. John’s Catholic Church in the middle of Townsend quickly became “help central” for the fire victims.

Most of them slept there on the night of the fire. And ever since… townspeople have stopped by with all sorts of essentials to get the displaced back on their feet.

Boy Scouts fold clothes donated for Townsend fire victims (WBZ-TV)

Boy Scouts are helping local clergymen fold donated clothing and organize toiletries, while social service workers and volunteers arrange temporary shelter and meals for the residents – many of whom are starting from scratch.

“Thank God no one got hurt,” says Laurette Pierre. “But I lost everything. I have absolutely nothing.”

“It’s only a matter of they were there and we were here,” says Pastor Patterson. “If the tables were turned it could’ve been us. So we’re just loving our neighbors as ourselves.”

On Wednesday, MEMA will join the Red Cross, local churches, and town officials in the relief effort.

A listing of the items needed is on the Townsend website.

Laurette Pierre says she trusts in God, but knows the weeks to come will be tough on her and her 4-year-old daughter. “It still hurts,” she says.

Ken MacLeod


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