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Fire victims look to future, planning to rebuild

Benefit concert: Jaffrey family seeing support from local musicians, friends and perfect strangers

The home of Terry and Hugh Landis of Jaffrey was destroyed in a fire on June 6. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

The home of Terry and Hugh Landis of Jaffrey was destroyed in a fire on June 6. The cause of the fire remains under investigation. (Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

JAFFREY — One month after a fire destroyed the Landis home on Sanders Drive, the family is making plans to rebuild on the same plot of land they’ve called home for decades. It’s an effort, they say, that would not be possible without the support they’ve been getting from the community.

“Aside from the initial fire, the sense of terror and anguish that it brought, everything since has been so positive and uplifting,” Terry Landis said by phone Wednesday. “Now that the dust is settling, we’re realizing our opportunities. How often does someone get the chance for a new beginning?”

To help the family begin anew, members of the local arts community, friends and even strangers have donated the gift of time, money and their lightly used belongings. The home of Hugh and Terry Landis was destroyed on the evening of June 6 in a two-alarm fire that firefighters say ignited following an explosion of unknown origins. No one was seriously injured, but Hugh and a firefighter went to the hospital with fire-related injuries.

The most recent benefit concert for the family was held Sunday at DelRossi’s Trattoria in Dublin, where jazz, folk, pop and Irish musicians entertained more than 100 guests from noon to 4 p.m. Musicians included Danny Soloman, John Mims, Wendy Keith, Leslie Vogel, Ildi Ingraham and a handful of others. To conclude the concert, Terry performed “Keep on the Sunny Side” by June Carter Cash, with DelRossi’s co-owner David DelRossi.

Restaurant co-owner Elaina DelRossi said Wednesday that hours after the June 6 fire, DelRossi’s quickly became a drop-off location for goods, clothing and food for the Landis family. Terry has waitressed at DelRossi’s for approximately 12 years, and The Terry Landis Band — whose members include Terry and her sons, Owen Landis and Ezra Landis — have performed there on numerous occasions.

Terry said Wednesday that she felt so many mixed emotions at the event and that the love shown to her family by the community was overwhelming. “It’s a really beautiful thing,” she said.

One of the people Terry and her husband, Hugh, met Sunday was 9-year-old Nicholas Merzi of Greenfield, who last month donated a small bag of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters to the cause of helping them get back on their feet. The note he included in the plastic bag with the change reads, “I hope this is enough money to buy some food, water or even a bar of soap. Hope all’s well and happy. This is all the money I earned in one year! Use the money wisely. Love, Nicholas Merzi.”

Meeting Merzi was a blessing, Terry said. “He was so shy and I felt really shy meeting him, too. There was just so much publicity around his donation,” she said, referring to the attention Merzi’s donation received on social media sites and in newspapers.

The bag of change included $11.37, money the Landises used to purchase an antique set of egg beaters. The kitchen tool is one that Terry said she’s dearly missed since losing her former set in the fire.

As the State Fire Marshal’s Office continues to search for answers as to what caused the June 6 fire, the Landises say they are planning for their future and the new, energy-efficient home they have envisioned for their property. The cause of the fire as of press time Wednesday was still under investigation, according to Jaffrey Fire Chief David Chamberlain.

Not knowing the source of the fire is a bit unsettling, Terry said, adding that she wonders if she’ll ever know. If the family could do something differently this time around to help prevent a future fire, she said she wants to be able to do so. Thankfully, the family has homeowners’ insurance, she said.

Terry and Hugh Landis live on Sanders Drive with their sons, Ezra and Owen, and Owen’s wife, Sat Pritam, as well as their 18-month-old granddaughter, Amara. Their new home will be off the grid, like the previous one, with solar panels serving as the primary electricity source, Terry said.

“We’ll be sure to have a good sprinkler system,” she said. “And we’re hoping to only need one cord of wood a year to heat it.”

Since June 9, the Landises have resided at a campsite erected by Marlow-based Kroka Expeditions — a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide wilderness opportunities for young people — on their property. Hugh is Kroka’s facilities manager.

For more information about community efforts to support the Landises, people are encouraged to visit the “Landis Love” page on Facebook and Lotsahelpinghands.org.

Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or adandrea@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @alyssadandrea.

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