Krisha Alewine’s purple cast bears the names of her two sons. It clings to her right leg after an ankle fusion surgery — one of multiple operations she’s undergone over the last year.
“In some ways, it seems like it’s been forever,” she said of the disaster that caused her injuries, which happened one year ago this week. “But in some ways, I mean, it could’ve been yesterday.”
Alewine and her husband Brian leapt from a third-story balcony when their Windsor Green condo building burned on April 12, 2018. Their then-10-year-old son was forced to do the same. In desperation, Brian Alewine threw his then-2-year-old to a teenager who had rushed to help.
The teen caught the child.
No one perished in the fire, but there were multiple people hurt. The most severe injuries came from those, like the Alewines, who jumped to save themselves.
Officially, authorities labeled the cause of the fire undetermined because they could not pinpoint the exact source. However, their 93-page report states that witnesses described bird nests in the building’s light fixtures.
In January, the Alewines sued the condo complex’s homeowners association and property management company, alleging in court records that the defendants did not take the necessary precautions to prevent the disaster.
The lawsuit states the fire was caused by a bird’s nest igniting in a light fixture by a second-story condo. An electrical failure or the heat of the bulb set the nest ablaze, according to the complaint.
So far, five families have filed lawsuits related to the Green fire. In their responses to the litigation, the defendants have asked the court to dismiss the cases.
For the Alewines, recovery has been agonizingly slow.
“We’ve been struggling over the past year,” Brian Alewine said. “But we’re making progress.”
Time management has been vital to the Alewines, who have had to coordinate doctor appointments and work schedules.
These days, Brian Alewine is the only member of the family who can drive.
“Financially, emotionally, physically, it’s taken its toll over the year,” he said. “You wake up in the middle of the night or anytime throughout the day and kind of think about it. I go back to, we survived and we’re just moving forward.”
Like their parents, the two boys have had to endure the effects of the fire. Crowds and loud noises make them uneasy.
“The physical injuries are for the most part healed,” Brian Alewine said. “Emotionally, it’s been really tough for them.
“Our oldest son, he’s just now gotten to where he’ll sleep in his own room. Before, he was terrified that a fire would break out at any moment.”
Their youngest developed a fear of fire trucks and firemen, and his parents are trying to teach him that first responders are helpful.
“From his point of view, all he knows is all this happens and then the firemen show up,” Brian Alewine said. “So he associates it with that.”
In June, the Alewines moved to a rental home in Carolina Forest. Soon afterward, their oldest son started walking by each window in the house to keep lookout when nighttime arrived.
Sometimes, when the sun would set or the moon would rise, light would filter through an American flag.
“Daddy, come look at this,” the boy would say.
Many things changed.
“He was into sports,” Brian Alewine said of his oldest son. “Not quite as much now. He actually had played a baseball game the night of the fire. I think in some ways he still wants to play. In other ways, he associates that with it, so it’s tough.”
Despite the difficulty of post-fire life, the Alewines have seen strong community support.
Brian Alewine works in Coastal Carolina University’s athletics department. The CCU baseball team had been playing at Troy University, his former employer, the night of the fire, and the Coastal squad returned with donations from the Alabama university.
And that support from the community is why the Alewines don’t regret moving to Carolina Forest.
“In an odd way, it solidified the decision for us to move up here,” Brian Alewine said.
But the blaze has caused them to consider means of escape in case of a fire.
While Krisha Alewine was in physical rehabilitation, she told someone who had volunteered to look for new homes for the family about the desire for one on the ground floor with multiple exits.
“We moved here thinking we’re just a few miles from the beach,” Krisha Alewine said. “Thinking we would be able to take the boys there in the summers and all that.”
Since the fire, they’ve been unable to drive to relatives in their home state of Alabama.
“All of our family is still back home in Alabama,” Krisha Alewine said. “We can’t sit that long in a car. That’s been hard, not being able to go back and see everybody like we want.”
Brian Alewine recalled the family passing by a go-kart track while he and his wife were still in back braces, and their boys both wanting to go for a spin.
“It was one of those things, ‘Well, maybe next year,’” he said.
Any trip the family takes require more planning.
“It’s honestly easier to stay at home sometimes,” Brian Alewine said.
For now, Krisha Alewine focuses on being able to walk without pain.
Her goals are simple: housework, check the mail, take a regular shower.
The family hopes for more normalcy.
“I always told Brian I wanted our life to get back to normal,” Krisha Alewine said. “I don’t really know what our normal is now. I say it’s a new normal.”