RALEIGH, N.C. — This Christmas is a bittersweet one for families who lost everything in a devastating apartment fire. 20 units at The Woodlands at Wakefield Plantation were either damaged or destroyed when flames swept through Thursday morning. The fire started on a second-floor balcony, and Investigators have not yet determined the cause.
Nearly everything that belonged to Jamie Brooks and her daughters burned in that fire. Still, the family feels blessed. They're thankful for the gifts they never expected to receive.
This year, there's no Christmas tree and no decorations. There aren't even the things that make an apartment a home. But Brooks and her daughters Rosalind and Madeleine have each other.
"You don't even think about things like that happening to you, you know, but here we are," said Brooks.
On Christmas morning, the one tradition they could keep was opening presents. The items cover the living room floor of their new, temporary apartment. They're donations through friends and strangers -- from toys to tableware, even a new television.
"They just dropped it off," said Brooks. "I have no idea who they are."
But new can't always replace the old.
"You spend your lifetime and you accumulate things and not necessarily that they're just things, but they had meaning -- you know, a lot of meaning," said Brooks.
When all the things that make your life are destroyed in a fire, it takes on a whole new meaning.
"We're just starting from scratch," said Brooks. "Literally starting over from scratch."
But the Brooks' -- who had no renter's insurance -- are off to a good start. The fire sparked collection drives. People gave food, clothes, and money generously.
"When people you don't know are giving stuff, you're just really thankful," said Rosalind Brooks. "And I really want to thank everybody for not gifts and money -- I want to thank them for that -- but also their thoughts and prayers."
"People that you don't know, they can do a whole bunch of things for you, because that's what kindness and love is about," said Madeleine Brooks.
It's also what Christmas is all about.
"You're down in the dumps and you think nobody cares about you or you're in this world all alone, and this is just a lesson that God has placed people in your lives to let you know you're not alone," said Jamie Brooks.