HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Saturday was a hard, but important day for a Henrico family still coming to grips with a devastating loss.
Linda Johnson and her daughter, Joreatha Lewis, are now on a mission of love and safety in memory of loved ones lost a year ago.
“It’s been painful," Johnson said. "And every day I cry because I still live over here, and I chose not to leave out of here, because I still feel their presence.”
This grandmother is talking about her grandchildren, Jeremiah, Shyla and Sage, who died in an apartment fire last year.
Last summer, Johnson and her family looked on in horror and disbelief as firefighters tried to save their loved ones. But this weekend, they are going door to door at the same complex hoping to spare other Highland Pointe families the grief they have known.
“It was all the smoke, and... they told us that something was left on the stove," Johnson said. "Ad that’s what took my babies out of here.”
The children’s mother, Joreatha Lewis, was at work that night and her fiancé, Shawn Ross, was home. He apparently fell asleep while something burned on the stove. None of the four was able to get out in time.
“It’s really hard to be here, but I’m doing it for Jeremiha, Shyla and Sage," Johnson explained. “’Cause maybe it will help somebody else. You never know.”
Johnson brought Henrico Fire with her on a mission Saturday, going door to door to give families peace of mind at no cost.
“These are firestops that attach to the top of a stove," Stokes Grymes with the Henrico Firefighter Foundation said. "And if there’s a fire on the stove, they will explode and put the fire out."
The devices were donated by the Henrico Firefighter Foundation, which regularly provides smoke detectors and devices like these to prevent the kinds of tragedies fires can spark.
And now, a grieving grandmother and her family have chosen to honor the memory of their babies by helping other families hold on to theirs.
“You’ve taken a very emotional moment a year ago, and tried to turn it into something positive, and hopeful for people in the future," Grymes told Johnson. "So thank you for organizing this."
Johnson recalled Shyla, the little diva, and one-year-old Sage, her little replica, and big brother Jeremiah, the girls’ protector til the end. And now the legacy of all of those lost is to help protect other families and other children because of the loss this family endured.
In all, this family lost eight people in a single year. The children’s mother has plans to take the fire safety message into area schools.
Johnson said that with tired parents working so hard to take care of their families, it is more important than ever to safeguard every household from what fire and fatigue can destroy. She wants to see these firestopping devices in every home.
Click here if you would like to make a donation to the Henrico Firefighter Foundation.