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Jaffrey

Victims of fire: Help still coming

Community rallies around Jaffrey family

  • 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.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • The home of Terry and Hugh Landis of Jaffrey was destroyed in a fire more than a week ago.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • The home of Terry and Hugh Landis of Jaffrey was destroyed in a fire more than a week ago.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • The home of Terry and Hugh Landis of Jaffrey was destroyed in a fire more than a week ago.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • The home of Terry and Hugh Landis of Jaffrey was destroyed in a fire more than a week ago.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • The home of Terry and Hugh Landis of Jaffrey was destroyed in a fire more than a week ago.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • The home of Terry and Hugh Landis of Jaffrey was destroyed in a fire more than a week ago.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • The home of Terry and Hugh Landis of Jaffrey was destroyed in a fire more than a week ago.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • The home of Terry and Hugh Landis of Jaffrey was destroyed in a fire more than a week ago.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • The home of Terry and Hugh Landis of Jaffrey was destroyed in a fire more than a week ago.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

“If we just let ourselves fall and be picked up. If, when we see someone fall, we just pick them up. All one love. One big love.” These lyrics are from the last verse of “All One Love,” a song recently written by Terry Landis of Jaffrey, who lost her home and most of her belongings in a June 6 house fire. In the days since an explosion and fire destroyed the Landis family home on Sanders Drive, Terry Landis said the song lyrics she wrote before the fire are among the many thoughts running through her mind.

She’s since transcribed the words on a piece of paper and displayed them in her family’s outdoor kitchen — one feature of a base camp she and her husband, Hugh Landis, erected on their property after the fire. “When I wrote those words, I had no idea that we would be the ones being picked up,” she said, referring to the uplifting lyrics.

But as the couple and their grown children begin again, they’re doing so with the help of friends and neighbors, as well as people they’ve never met. The outpouring of support for the family has included grassroots fundraisers, donations from local businesses and benefit concerts, including one planned in July at DelRossi’s Trattoria in Dublin, where Terry Landis works as a waitress.

“The first angels are the firefighters, the second angels are the Red Cross, who catch you before you even know you’re falling and set you down gently,” Terry Landis wrote in an email to the Ledger-Transcript on Saturday. “They were here before the flames were out, so kind and compassionate and helpful.”

The Red Cross provided basic essentials like soup, toothpaste and toothbrushes, as well as washcloths to the family the night of the fire, she said. Terry and Hugh Landis lived at the home with their son Ezra; another son, Owen, and his wife, Sat Pritam, and their 18-month old daughter, Amara. Those who were in the home on June 6 made it out without major injuries; Hugh Landis suffered minor burns.

“All of the family is OK,” Hugh Landis said at his property Friday. “I got the worst of it. I was trying to be heroic and slow [the fire] down, but it would have none of that.”

Hugh Landis remembered hearing a loud pop and seeing flames through a window in the northwest corner of the home. Whether the fire started before or after the pop, he said he’s not sure. According to Jaffrey Fire Chief David Chamberlain, the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

“It’s traumatic to lose your house and everything you own, but we have come to understand that stuff is stuff and there are always opportunities, even in the worst of times, to start fresh and do things better,” Hugh Landis said, adding that the tragedy brought a tight family even closer together.

Hugh Landis said he knew before the fire that the family had amazing friends, but that their generosity in these difficult times has left him in awe. Community support has also come from unexpected places, he noted.

One donation of a small bag of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters from Nicholas Merzi, 9, of Greenfield, is among the examples of community outreach that’s pulled on the heartstrings of the Landis family.

A note 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.”

Merzi said in a phone interview last week that, when he saw his mom, Laura Merzi, had gathered some dishes, dinnerware and clothes to donate to the Landises, he wanted to help, too. “I was really surprised by what had happened,” he said, referring to the fire.

Laura Merzi, who had heard about the fire through Facebook, said she has a two-year-old daughter and was particularly struck by the Landises’ story because 18-month-old Amara was one of the victims. “I can’t imagine having a child that young and having all my belongings gone,” she said.

The importance of volunteering and helping those less fortunate is something that Laura Merzi said she works hard to teach her children. “The fact that he did this on his own. I couldn’t ask for anything more,” she said, referring to her son’s donation.

Crystal Bechard of Jaffrey, an assistant manager at Hubert’s clothing store in Peterborough, met the Landises daughter-in-law, Sat Pritam, and granddaughter, Amara, when the two visited the store in the days after the fire to purchase clothes and shoes. After hearing their story, Bechard said by phone Thursday that she’s been seeking donations from people throughout the Monadnock region. Among the gifts delivered to Hubert’s was Nicholas Merzi’s bag of coins.

Bechard, who said Nicholas Merzi’s note made her cry, later posted a picture of the bag of change and the note to talk show host Ellen DeGeneres’ Facebook page, which has since generated several thousand “likes,” she said.

Terry Landis said Sunday that the family was deeply moved and grateful for the young boy’s donation, adding that “his heart is definitely in the right place.”

“I think we might frame his note as a memento of this whole experience,” Terry Landis said.

In Dublin, family friend, Cassie Cleverly, said she has set up a room in her barn to store drop-off donations, which began pouring in after the community learned that the Landises had lost everything in the fire.

“We now have a community on Lotsahelpinghands.org set up, in addition to a couple of Facebook communities,” Cleverly said, adding that about 40 members of those online communities have donated and offered to make meals for the Landises.

DelRossi’s Trattoria in Dublin will hold a benefit concert on July 7 from noon to 4 p.m. to benefit the family; musicians are TBA. Donations of clothes or household goods can be dropped off at DelRossi’s, and money or gift cards can be sent to Terry Landis, in care of DelRossi’s, P.O. Box 337, Dublin, N.H. 03444.

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

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