Local News

Let there be light: Durham man finally gets electricity

Posted November 16, 2018 7:04 p.m. EST

— After living in the dark for more than a year, Ramon Fernandez finally got to flip the lights on at his Durham home on Friday.

Fernandez moved from Goldsboro to Durham last year, but Duke Energy refused to hook up power to his mobile home, saying it wasn't up to code. The main problems were rickety stairs to his front door and a lack of a skirt around the base.

Brian Ehrenfeld of Chapel Hill contractor Build Ex said he was touched by Fernandez's plight and decided to help.

"I just realized, 'Hey, this is something we do every day, and this is something we can easily fix,'" Ehrenfeld said.

A Build Ex crew installed a lattice skirt and reinforced the front steps this week. After city inspectors approved the changes, Duke crews installed an electric meter and hooked up the power.

"The lights! Finally!" an ecstatic Fernandez said as he opened the front door after Ehrenfeld flipped the breaker.

"I never really thought it was going to happen." he said. "Every day for, I was counting the days, it was close to 500-some days, I was sitting in this living room thinking, 'What do I do? Who can I call?' I started praying, asking the Son of the Living God, 'Jesus Christ, you have to bring somebody to help me,' and that's when Brian showed up."

Fernandez said he felt bad watching the crews work on his home in the cold and rain because he knew he couldn't pay them.

"Everybody did what they could," Ehrenfeld said, noting neighbors provided power for the workers' tools and lighting. "Instead of just one or two people, it expanded. There was probably 10 or 15 people involved in this."

Durham inspectors issued the permits "almost instantaneously, which almost never happens," he added.

"If I could thank everybody, shake hands with everybody, I would," Fernandez said. "But I know it's impossible because it's so many people."

He said he planned to call some people who had been praying for him to let them know their prayers were answered. He also wanted to watch some television Friday night.

"This is a rebirth," he said. "Tomorrow, I'm going to start thinking again, to plan my life, to say, 'OK, what's next' because it was on hold. I didn't have anything. I was halfway."