MANCHESTER, NH — Four days after losing everything but the clothes on their backs to a devastating house fire, the Simard family is holding up.
That’s due mostly to the family’s Little Miss Sunshine, Nora. At 8, she’s “the glue holding the family together,” says her Aunt Kimberly Simard.
If fire is a Grinch, then Nora is the quintessential Cindy Lou Who.
“At first she was more concerned about Santa not being able to find her than losing the house, but —she’s sunshine,” said Kimberly Simard. “She told her mom and dad everything’s going to be all right.”
⇒How to help: Simard Family Relief Fund on GoFundMe
The family of five — David and Amy Simard and their three kids Jared, 19, Maddy, 16, and Nora — still have everything they really need: each other.
“They’re all safe,” says Kimberly, who is married to David’s brother William. “Thank God they weren’t home when it happened.”
The fire was reported by a neighbor at about 1 p.m. on Dec. 9, who called 911 when he saw the black smoke, then ran around the house and finally decided to kick in a rear sliding-glass door to make sure no one was inside.
“The final determination was that a spark came out the back vent of the pellet stove, which landed on leaves that had blown up against the house during all that wind we had. The leaves caught the deck on fire and it went up the side of house and into Jared’s bedroom first,” Simard says.
She says the entire family is eternally grateful for the hard work of Manchester firefighters who risked their lives trying to save the house. Four firefighters were injured fighting the blaze when a backdraft explosion blew out the house windows and knocked the firefighters down the stairs from the second story.
“We will never forget what they did,” Simard said.
As her brother- and sister-in-law now search for a new temporary home where they can set up a replacement Christmas tree, Simard says they are struck daily by all that has been lost, reduced to unrecognizable ash and rubble.
Jared, who is attending Manchester Community College, is a gifted musician who was a member of Central High School’s marching band and played multiple instruments.
“His keyboard, his saxophone, his clarinet, piccolo — all gone,” says Simard.
Maddy, who attends Central, loves all things horses.
“She competes in 4-H Western Pleasure competitions. She lost all her competition riding clothes, ribbons, everything,” her aunt said.
“They are such a giving family. They aren’t the kind of people to ask for help. They’re the ones who would give the shirts off their backs to help others. I’m in awe of them,” Simard says. “Amy worked part-time for Make-A-Wish — I’m not even positive if she’s still working there —but even in her free time, she was the one helping make Wish Kids’ dreams come true. I know she was providing child care in her home to one little child — which she can’t do now, with no home.”
David Simard is employed by Eversource.
Kimberly Simard knew there were a lot of people who would want to help the family, normally the ones on the giving end of the equation, and launched the Simard Family Relief Fund on GoFundMe. The goal is set at $7,500, money to help out for clothing, necessities — and some semblance of a Merry Christmas.
“Right now they’re trying to get back to some kind of normalcy. They’re at Walmart every day, not realizing all the every day things that they need — soap, medicine, aspirin, notebooks for school,” says Simard. “And through this whole thing, my little niece Nora is still going to CCD class, where she’s collecting money for the needy.”
Although Nora knows her life has changed, she feels secure because her family is constant, and that’s what matters most, says her aunt.
“Yes, she’s amazing,” Simard says of Nora sunshine. “She’s an old soul.”