Featured Stories

After the fire: Good days always follow bad

2011: Where are they now? An update of the Sandy Post's top stories of the year
by: ALICE BUSCH This black skeleton shrouded in grey and black smoke is all that was left of the home of a grandmother raising her two grandchildren at 19529 Veneer Lane, after an April 4 fire consumed everything they owned.

Lawana Hayward probably will always look back on April 4, 2011, with mixed feelings.

She has good feelings that she was at work and her grandchildren were at school when her home on Veneer Lane, east of Sandy, exploded in flames.

But she has bad feelings that the family lost almost everything it owned in this world - everything except her car, two teenage grandchildren (who have been living with their grandparents for nine years) and one dog.

In the last nine months, not a lot of progress has been made at putting their lives back together.

That fateful day in April could be considered the worst day of her life, but if one looks at a larger picture they'll notice at that same time her family was disappearing.

In a little more than three months before the fire, Hayward had lost Tim, her husband of 22 years, as well as her brother, great grandmother, aunt, uncle and her best friend's mother.

But adversity doesn't seem to deter Hayward in the pursuit of her goals, even though they sometimes seem like a moving target.

'Since April when they put the two trailers out here,' she said, 'the only thing that has changed is the weather.'

She and the kids have been living in two trailers, initially donated by Johnson RV, but now rented by Hayward's insurance company.

'2011 wasn't very good to us,' she said, 'but we're used to camping. If anyone can be considered survivors, we can.'

The family is going to rebuild, but they're trying to find another contractor.

Hayward had a contractor who was willing to accept the volunteer help, but for some unknown reason he backed out. So Hayward located a structural engineer and architect and has plans ready for a 'stick-built' home.

Every day she has to look at the mess the fire left behind. Every day she wishes there was a contractor who would be willing to build a home and use some of the volunteer labor she has been offered.

Since her previous 'manufactured home' depreciated in its value, the insurance company will not pay the full price of a stick-built home, so she'll have a mortgage someday - when she is able to move into more permanent quarters.

Hayward says she doesn't know how to express her appreciation for everyone who helped her immediately after the fire.

'I have renewed my faith in humanity,' she said. 'All the people I work with (at Kaiser Permanente), so many people in Sandy, everyone. We had so many people coming forward to offer to help us; it was just amazing. That's what has pulled me through all of this.'

The help came from other towns, other states (people she has never met), with gifts arriving in the mail from Florida, North Carolina, Arizona and California - as well as many people from the Sandy area.

'My neighbor (Hope Snyder) has just been a godsend to me,' Hayward said. '(For example) she'd call me on Saturday mornings at 6 o'clock and ask, 'What time do you want breakfast?' '

Hayward says the Snyders are 'still there for me, and help us all the time.'

Looking back, there has been a lot of trauma in the family's life together.

'All that has happened was just devastating,' Hayward said, 'but we all came out of it OK.'

Today, she and her grandchildren are down to necessities, since the trailers are somewhat small for a family of three with pets.

'We're living day-by-day right now,' she said. 'We're trying to get the trailers (and their exposed water systems) winterized.'

Winter's coming, and the family is still camping. But for her part, Hayward is so glad to be surrounded by a community that cares.