Last Sunday’s Union Street fire, a rare disaster that ravaged one of Athens’ most beloved blocks, left affected Ohio University students in various states of disarray.
One of those students is Alison Stewart.
“We were the attic, and it kinda fell through to the bottom,” said Stewart, a previous resident of 12 ½ B W. Union St., an apartment that was torched by the fire. “My entire apartment is just gone.”
Stewart’s bedroom — under a little white roof three stories above the street — collapsed during the fire that displaced 40 OU students — 17 of them permanently — who were all safely evacuated Sunday morning. No one was seriously injured and everyone survived, yet the same cannot be said for many personal belongings.
“Everything is a total loss,” said Stewart, a senior studying special education. “I had one roommate, and everything of hers was a total loss, as well.”
Those losses, Stewart said, included her glasses, her bed and her great grandmother’s necklace.
While other students and faculty from the university provided considerable donations of clothes, toiletries and other household supplies to the fire-affected students, not everything has been easy to replace.
“Although I did get a lot of donations, I am having to go out and buy professional clothing, because I am going to be a teacher, so I’m still in my field placement,” Stewart said.
Replacing lost personal items will put an unforeseen strain on these families, especially for the upcoming holiday season.
“I feel bad because my parents have paid a lot for this incident,” Stewart said. “But I think we’ll manage — we’ll pull through the holiday. My siblings might not be getting as much for Christmas, which I feel bad about.”
Not every Bobcat who was affected by the Union Street fire is having to cope with considerable damages.
“We really just had to get our clothes smoke-cleaned,” said Rachel Portik, one of the previous residents above Chipotle on Court Street. “We’re just dealing with the water damage now.”
Her apartment, which only had smoke and water damage, was not damaged by the flames. On Sunday, Portik told The Post she believed her roof had caught fire and did not know if any of her possessions still existed.
Despite the discrepancies in fire-related damages, one resounding theme has echoed from these resilient Bobcats: thankfulness.
“I’m very thankful. The university has been amazing to us,” Portik said. “They have done everything to make this better for us; they’ve been very helpful during this time.”
These students are also appreciative of the firefighters who fought the blaze and police officers who assisted in the fire evacuations.
“Back where we are, there are so many doors and only a few little houses,” Portik said “The fact that they got everybody up and out is just amazing.”
The donations that students and faculty provided were also well received.
“I actually feel extremely thankful for the generosity that’s been given to me this week,” Stewart said. “It really shows you who cares about you and will support you through these kinds of things. I feel very thankful.”
Material possessions may come and go, but for next week’s Thanksgiving holiday, these students say they still have something to celebrate.
This story also appears on The Post