Local News

When fire destroys Durham mother's car, Stem couple steps in

Posted October 25, 2012 10:10 p.m. EDT
Updated October 26, 2012 8:34 a.m. EDT

— A homeless Durham mother who lost nearly everything when her car caught fire earlier this month has found hope in the kindness of a passer-by.

Larry Green saw flames shooting out from under Carlota Brown's car and tried to flag her down to pull over.

"The fuel line was broken and underneath the car was already on fire," Green said. "How can you not stop (to help)?"

Brown said she never saw Green's signals, but as soon as she realized what was happening, he was there to help.

"(He) was a guardian angel because I did not see him pull over. I didn't even see him behind me," she said. "I just looked up, and he was there."

Green helped Brown get her two children out safely, just as flames engulfed the car, destroying it.

"I saw smoke from from under the hood and I just turned the car off, jumped out of the car, got my children and just ran," Brown said. "I was grateful that me and my children had gotten out safely, but watching my car burn, it was devastating."

Green comforted her, patting her on the shoulder, she said. 

"He was just telling me, 'Thank God that your children are out, and that they're safe' and that 'anything you had can be replaced,'" she said.

But the fire not only took the family's car, it incinerated their groceries and the cash Brown had just withdrawn from the bank. After staying at the Durham Rescue Mission for three months, what little the family had was in that car.

"The groceries that were in there, everything – my identification, Social Security card – everything is gone," Brown said. "My car had everything in it. That was my only means of transportation to get my children to and from school, and to go to work."

That's when Green and his wife, Paula, stepped in to help.

"(We) saw people in need," he said.

They bought Brown a car. 

"They will always have a special place in my heart," she said. "It's overwhelming and really unbelievable, but I'm very thankful and grateful."

Brown is working and attending school at Durham Technical Community College to try and get back on her feet, and the Greens want to help her find a permanent place to live. 

"If there was anybody ever deserving, it's Carlota," Green said. "How could you not want to help?"