After the storm: Watertown Middle worker loses home due to storm

Xavier Smith • Mar 8, 2017 at 2:06 PM

One Watertown Middle School worker is starting to rebuild her life after a fire destroyed her home during last week’s storm.

Rena Cook, 11-year employee, said a fire destroyed her home last week that was likely started from direct lightning or a power surge that resulted from lightning. Cook said she recalls the electricity going out before she left her 7-year-old home to work at the school.

“I had come to work and left my glasses at home. So I told [supervisor Tammi Brewster] I was going to have to go home and get my glasses. I had just pulled out to leave to go back home when Ms. Tammi called and told me to come back because somebody had called the school that went by and seen the house on fire,” Cook said.

“To be honest, my biggest concern was getting home and getting my dog out. That was the only thing I really had on my mind when I heard the news was Buffy.”

Buffy died in the fire. She was a Christmas present from her late husband, Mike, who died after the couple built the home. Cook also said her 15-year-old dog died last summer.

Cook said the fire destroyed the home and probably left only a handful of salvageable clothes. Cook said she doesn’t remember her feelings following the fire.

“I think I was kind of numb feeling. It just all happened so fast and thought, ‘What am I going to do?’” said Cook, who said her three children arrived at the home shortly after her.

“I don’t think I could really focus on anything but Buffy at the time, because when I got there, they didn’t know she was in there,” she said.

She said her children went and searched for Buffy, but were unable to find her. Cook is currently staying with her daughter until she is able to find a new home to continue raising her 14-year-old grandson.

“The reason I started working at the school is because he didn’t want to go to school, and they had a job opening. I just had back surgery and was out of work, so I told him, ‘If I go to school, will you go to school? He’s the reason I was here,” she said.

Brewster said the school is currently collecting gift cards for nearby stores such as K-Mart and Walgreen’s, so Cook can get necessarily materials and medication. She said people could also make cash donations to Wilson Bank & Trust in Cook’s name.

“In the past, Rena has helped so many people with benefits, so because of that, she’s well loved, and we know the community will give back, because she’s already done it for other people,” said Brewster, who said Cook has helped orchestrate at least four fundraisers in the community.

However, Cook said she was only helping the community who had once helped her.

“The town had a big benefit for me 16 years ago when my son passed away. He was in the hospital six months, and they did a benefit for me to raise money so I could stay at the hospital with him. So, it was kind of a way to try and pay back for what everybody had done to help me,” Cook said.

Cook said she knows she can’t give up and has to start over and move forward.

“Really I’m blessed. I had a good place to live and had just about anything I wanted, and the next day it’s gone. They say what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. Losing my son and my husband was worse than what a house fire could ever take way from me,” she said.

“God has a reason for her to be here because it always orchestrated at just the right time,” Brewster said. “God worked it out. She is alive because she would have gone in to try and save her dog just like any of us would. We are so glad to still have her here. As horrible and tragic as it has been, you can’t replace a person.”

Cook said she lost all physical items relative to her late husband and son, including a room dedicated to her son that featured angel figurines.

“What I had left of them was in the house, but I still have my memories,” she said.

Brewster said in addition gift cards and cash donations at Wilson Bank & Trust, the school would appreciate anyone who would donate angel figurines.


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