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This item originally appeared in the Feb. 19, 2004, issue of The Tech Talk.


Staff Writer

"It is not an ending, it is a beginning."

That is how Kathy Stamps, a senior computer information systems major, said she looks at her recent tragedy.

On Feb. 5, Stamps, a wife and mother of three, and her family survived a fire that destroyed their mobile home, leaving them with nothing but the pajamas on their backs and a few memories.

"We lost our IDs and all of our cash we were saving," Stamps said. "The only thing that did not burn was my Bible and my family pictures."

Stamps said the fire started in the kitchen of their home.

"[The fire department] told me they think that it was an electrical fire in the hood above our stove," Stamps said. "We moved in on [Feb. 2] and the fire started 2 a.m. [Feb. 6]."

Stamps, not even unpacked from the recent move, recalls that night:

"The children were asleep on the couch because we had not put their beds up. [My husband and I] were sleeping on mattresses in our room.

"I was dreaming that someone was telling me to wake up, and I woke up, looked into the kitchen and there was just orange flames all the way up to the ceiling, and they were coming toward us," Stamps said.

Stamps said her husband, Ray, woke up instantly when she screamed his name.

"We gathered the kids and got outside, and as soon as we stepped down on the ground the windows in the trailer started exploding," Stamps said. "Within three minutes the trailer was completely burnt."

Stamps' oldest daughter, 8-year-old Rikki, was treated for first-degree burns to the scalp. Rikki, along with 6-year-old Tyler and 5-year-old Jessica, were given antibiotics to treat smoke inhalation.

Faculty members and her peers heard about Stamps' situation and wanted to reach out.

Shawn Clark, office coordinator for computer information systems and analysis, sent an e-mail around campus asking for donations of food, clothing, money or anything people were willing to offer.

Clark said she could not just sit and not help after seeing Stamps the day of the fire.

"It was the saddest thing I have seen in my life," Clark said. "They had soot all over them, and [Kathy] had tears running down her face.

"It is almost like you do not even have to think about it," Clark said. "You just go, 'Oh what am I going to do to help? I have to do something.'"

Sharon Hughes, a secretary in the graduate research division, is also involved in helping out with the collection drive. Hughes said helping out Stamps is her way of reciprocating the help she once received.

"I went through some difficult times myself and had people that helped me," Hughes said. "I just feel like it is a way to give back."

Donations can be dropped off at the College of Administration and Business Building, Rooms 105 and 115.

Clark said any type of donation is a good one, and so far the donations have been a success.

"The outpouring of help we have received so far has been amazing," Clark said. "It is a wonderful feeling to see people give like that, literally give anything they have in their wallets."

Despite the near fatal tragedy, Clark said Stamps' attitude is positive.

"Less than 24 hours [after the fire], Kathy told me, 'I just know whenever God closes a door somewhere, He opens a window,'" Clark said.

Stamps said she saved the most important thing from the fire.

"The firefighter told me they couldn't save anything, but I told him we just saved everything -- my family."

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