MANNFORD -- “We could see it coming… It was like watching everything you had worked for for years just go away.”
That is how Bernice “Niece” Jones felt as she evacuated her home last August when the Creek County wildfires spread through her neighborhood near Hwy 48.
The 71-year-old has been in Mannford since the early 1970s. The city of about 5,000 is home to not only Jones, but several of her children and their families.
Jones returned to her home to find she lost her home, several pets and everything she owned in the fire.
“I put a few things in my car, but like most people, I didn’t actually think it would happen. We got out with our lives and lost a lot of stuff, but it’s just stuff.”
She was among hundreds in Creek County that were left homeless, and like many in the area, she had no insurance.
But the Mannford community responded to those in need. Churches and local organizations in Creek and Tulsa counties began rounding up donations and offering whatever assistance they could, from cleanup to rebuilding.
“All of the churches bound together and started collecting items like a toothbrush, a comb – things that most people who have been through a disaster like this, you think you have… just a wonderful overwhelming feeling of love. I’d never seen a community bound together and hold each other up like this.”
Jones stayed with her daughter for seven months, and it was during this time that she said she decided it was time to move forward.
“You get up through prayer and perseverance and determination and you get a little angry and you put together and it makes a big old ball of energy and that’s how you for it.”
Jones found her home in February and moved in the new house in March.
“I am furnished. I’m well taken care of I’ve got a beautiful home, I think, and I am very happy. God has blessed me the community has helped me. I think God just rearranged my life and put me where I need to be. So here I am.”
It has been a long road to recovery, but Jones said she believes better days lie ahead for her, her family and the people of Mannford.
“With the community’s help and the love of our Lord, we got through it, and we’re still here. The community is stronger. I think they have learned a lot. I think we are going be a wonderful community when we all do recover, and we will recover. I think we are going to rise above the ashes and stand very tall, taller than that fire and it was above the trees.”
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