By Cathy Spaulding
Times Staff Writer
Jason Thompson and his family shed a lot of tears over the past two weeks.
Tears of grief for losing their home and possessions in a fire early Dec. 11.
Tears of joy for how Fort Gibson students, area residents and Eastpointe Industries co-workers rallied to help them recover.
“There’s been a lot of people help,” said Thompson, 29. “We stopped by the Fort Gibson Middle School library, and there were 200 or 300 kids lined up with Christmas stockings, and they had all kinds of gifts. Then they sang. As soon as news (of the fire) hit Facebook, it took off. People came from Webbers Falls, one came from Checotah. By the time I got back to work the other day, there were two truckloads of clothing and other things.”
Thompson said that because of such generosity, “We got everything we needed.”
He added, “I didn’t think there was that many people who cared for other people.”
Jason and Samantha Thompson lived in a mobile home on Cemetery Road in Fort Gibson with their three sons — Kaleb, 6, Kaiden, 5, and Kameron, 18 months.
The mobile home caught fire shortly after 1 a.m.
“We were all asleep, then my wife smelled smoke and woke us all up,” Thompson said.
The boys were sleeping on the bedroom floor, as they sometimes do, he said.
“Soon as we opened the door, smoke was coming all through the trailer,” he said. “The living room was on fire, and the boys’ room, the kitchen. Flames were coming out of the windows.”
Thompson said the family managed to escape out a back door. Kaleb got out first.
“Samantha grabbed the baby and handed him to me,” he said.
His wife hurt her leg while getting out the door, which has a 4-foot drop to the ground, he said.
That left Kaiden still inside the blazing house.
“I went back through the back door; he was screaming,” Thompson said. “I crawled through the smoke and then I found him. I was dragging him across the floor.
“He had a blanket wrapped around him. I shoved it in his face, so it was covering his face.”
The family escaped with just the clothes they had on, Thompson said. They took the boys to a neighbor’s house, and Thompson went to another neighbor’s house to call the fire department.
Donations and offers of help came almost immediately.
Thompson said someone on Facebook donated a love seat and other furniture.
Co-workers also donated items.
“The employees pitched in and brought clothes, toys. It was really kind of overwhelming for us,” said John Rhodes, operations manager for Eastpointe Industries.
A week later, Fort Gibson Middle School students collected items and more than $500 for the family.
FGMS social studies teacher Linda Arnett said her eighth-grade class already had collected for an Angel Tree family and had about $130 left over. So, students collected even more money, for an overall total of $514. Students also brought toys and blankets for the boys. Seventh-graders also helped.
“The students got a blessing by being there,” Arnett said. “This let our kids see they were helping real people.”
Thompson said Norwood Schools, where Kaiden and Kaleb attend, donated jackets.
The family has managed to find temporary housing, Thompson said. He recalled driving by an apartment for rent across from the Q.B. Boydstun Library. He said that when he was told the apartment would not be ready for a couple of weeks, he explained the family’s situation.
“They went and fixed it up,” Thompson said. “There’s still a little cleaning to do that we have to do ourselves.”
The Cherokee Nation paid the deposit and first month’s rent, he said.
“We’re moved in,” Thompson said, adding that donated clothing, toys, furniture and other items are “just piled in there with us.”
The Cherokee Nation already was working on building a house for the family, Thompson said.
“We got approved for the house before the fire,” he said.
Fort Gibson Fire Chief Larry Dale Cooper said investigators have not determined a cause of the fire, which started in the home’s living room.
Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.