For Glenwood couple, the wedding’s off thanks to Coal Seam Fire
September 14 was going to be the big day for Michel Field and Troy Gordon. After 10 years together, they were finally going to get hitched.You know when a couple has been together for a long time when all that’s needed to ID them is their first names. Troy and Michel, Michel and Troy, that’s all you need to say and everyone knows who you’re talking about.But after a decade, they were finally going to do the deed and get married. But things have now changed for Michel and Troy.”I think we’re going to push it back a year,” Troy said. “We’ve got too many other things to take care off first.”Troy’s face is tired and drawn. His eyes are hidden behind sunglasses but there’s no doubt that they are sad and bloodshot.Troy and Michel lived at the corner of Highway 6&24 and Mitchell Creek Road. Their home is no longer a house. After June 8, the date of Sept. 14 has moved down on the priority list – way down. Michel’s eyes are puffy from the tears, anxiety and no sleep. The fatigue and strain of the past few hours has taken a tremendous toll. The Coal Seam fire is responsible for their pain.The Coal Seam fire took their home, their valuables and some of their dreams.Michel, 30, is from South Carolina and can whip up that darling southern accent in the wink of an eye. Troy is a Glenwood native, who graduated Glenwood High School in 1987.Friends, who were scheduled to receive wedding invitations in a few weeks, have come to offer their sympathy, with words, hugs, tears, thoughts and prayers.Besides college, Troy has lived his whole life within a stone’s throw from where his and Michel’s house stood prior to 4:30 p.m. on June 8.Troy swallows hard when I ask him to tell me his emotions when he saw the remains of their house. “Emptiness, just emptiness, that’s all I feel” Troy said with the help of a grimace. “We worked so hard to get that house.”It’s painfully obvious that few words are available to describe what they’ve gone through.That house has been their home for 8 years. Some just-completed landscaping had left a spiffy touch on their home, but it’s no longer spiffy. Troy and Michel have sifted through decades of belongings that are now nothing but ashes. A wooden wishing-well lawn decoration sits off to the side, looking like it just came from the store, not even scorched.The unexplainable and unimaginable aspects of the fire that took everything from some but still spared so many.Up a little farther is where Troy’s mom lived. Her home is gone, too, thanks to the Coal Seam blaze. She also lost three pets to the ruthless blaze.Michel was able to corral their canine companions Tasha, Ginger and Moby just in time to stuff them in the car before she speed away to safety.Michel’s words flow easy, now more than 24 hours since she opened the door to hell.”I opened the door and saw flames. I had the cordless phone in my hand and grabbed the house keys. I don’t have a house, but I’ve got the house keys, and a cordless phone,” she said with a nonbelieving little chuckle.Michel knew immediately that when she flung open the front door that it would be the last time she would see that door. “When I opened the door and saw flames, I knew the house was gone.”Michel looks around the horde of people that gathered at the courthouse and said, “It’s just not real.”She takes a deep breath and battles back the tears from a bottomless well, that losing a home produces.Homeless, distraught and numb, Troy and Michel needed to shop for necessities. But even that brought pain.”We’re at Wal-Mart and I look into the cart and I see a two pairs of shorts and a couple of shirts,” she said shaking her head. “I just think, this is everything, this is all we have.”Sitting in the driveway – what used to be their driveway – is the charred shell of what Michel calls her “baby.”The classic 1956 Chevy Belaire, with its distinctive rear taillights and wings, is very recognizable even after the fire. “That was my baby,” Michel said with a painful grin. “I bought it from a guy for 100 bucks,” Michel said proudly. “It was all original. Now it’s gone.”Michel has taken a mental inventory of what is now ashes. She also thinks about what she would have grabbed if she would have had a few more seconds to spare.”If I would have had 30 more seconds, I would have grabbed our rings,” Michel said, referring to the rings they were going to exchange on Sept. 14.Besides her gown, which is still at the store, everything else related to the wedding was claimed by the fire.There’s no doubt that Troy and Michel will set another wedding day. They will also have another house and begin to collect the trinkets, scrapbooks, photo albums and other items that help make a house a home – items that, before June 8, made their house a home.For now, Troy and Michel will continue to adjust to a life without their home.Sometime next year, friends and family will join them for their special day when rings will be exchanged, toasts will be made and the hugs and tears will be happy and joyous.But until then, life will be about rebuilding a home and reconstructing a life that starts from scratch with only a few items from Wal-Mart, a life that goes on even if the home is gone. It’s a life that has shifted the priorities for Troy and Michel.Like their wedding day, Troy and Michel’s happiness has been forced to be rescheduled. But like their wedding, happiness will return.For Troy and Michel, they’re due a little happiness. Actually, after what they’ve been through, they’re due for a lot of happiness.Dale Shrull is the editor of the Rifle Citizen Telegram. This article appeared in the Citizen Telegram on Thursday, June 13.
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