Haron Hippolyte left the house on Wednesday, July 11 not knowing he would not have a home to come back to. There was nothing that could have told him this day would be any different from any other, but by 2pm things took a drastic turn. The Ciceron resident found out about a fire at his residence through an unexpected phone call from his aunt.
“I was speechless . . . I was stunned,” he told the STAR. “The first thing I said was my children . . . then I asked about my mom and about my brother’s daughter. My aunt told me everyone was okay, but they didn’t have time to save anything.”
Haron left work much earlier than the usual 5pm that day, hopped on a bus and rushed home.
“I was thinking ‘Oh my God, how am I going to start over? I have to start all over again . . . Everything I hustled and worked hard for . . .”
By the time he got home, there was nothing but ashes and an empty shell where his house once was. The fire started at about 1pm that day and Haron says he started asking questions when things on the scene calmed down. Interestingly, his six-year-old son gave him a detailed account of what happened, speaking about his older brother playing with matches.
“He said my eight-year-old son took the matches and went under his bunk bed and he ended up lighting some paper or whatever and it ended up igniting and falling on the mattress,” Haron retold.
“He probably thought it would go out by itself and was probably even frightened to tell my mother in fear he would be punished. He was scared. He didn’t say anything until my mom literally took the smell of something burning. She rushed downstairs and when she saw the house there was a whole heap of smoke. When she realized what was happened she started looking for my two sons. She found them and brought them outside because the room was on fire.
“She told the eight-year-old to stay put, she would go back in to see if she could save anything but by the time she went back in flames had taken over the entire house.”
“It happened so quickly,” Haron said, adding that the main thing on his mother’s mind had been saving the children, his brother’s niece who was with her at the time and his two sons.
“Once she was satisfied that the children were safe, she went back into the house to see if anything could be salvaged. When she left to do that Haron’s eight-year-old son not knowing what else to do somehow managed to get back into the house.
“He ran back upstairs,” Haron says. “They could not find him. I don’t know if he thought he would be safe if he went there, or thought he would be punished. My mom came back and was asking “Where is the other one? There were three of them one is missing.”
Thankfully a hero of a neighbour managed to once again get the child out of the house in the midst of the blazing fire.
“After they got him out he started coughing and vomiting,” the boy’s father told the STAR. “After that the fire service came on the scene, along with the ambulance. They brought him in and gave him oxygen. He was so frightened that he was trembling. They gave him oxygen, he couldn’t even walk. He was so traumatized, he never thought that little thing could have resulted in what happened.”
Despite the circumstances Haron says he doesn’t blame his son for what happened.
“Children will always be children, in spite of people telling them don’t do this, don’t do that,” he said. “They don’t know the dangers of what we’re telling them not to do. The most important thing is that he didn’t get burnt, my mom is alive and his brother didn’t get hurt. We lost everything though. We couldn’t save not a spoon, or a plate to say we could have had something in spite of the house burning. That’s just the way it is for the time.”
Haron still finds reasons to count his blessings. He says support has been coming in from friends and family all around.
“From the Wednesday to today God had blessed me with so many things,” he says. “I know things are still coming, my family from overseas is trying to help. It’s everybody coming together to try to get back what we lost, but at the end of the day we still can’t get certain things back—valuable things like pictures. It is what it is.
“Right now we can’t be choosy. Whatever help we can get, however God can help us in whoever he assigns to help us we will gladly appreciate it. Where there’s a will there’s a way. We the family will never give up, we are strong and that will even make us stronger. Whether we get help or not, we will get back on our feet and be stronger than before, trust me. That’s my goal and the whole family’s goal right now. Wherever we get help we will be thankful.”
“I’m mad at myself in one way, but still thanking God,” Haron says of his feelings of the moment. Mad at himself because he wasn’t there.
“I was at work and seeing it’s my kids,” he related. “It’s not anyone else’s and I end up putting my mother in so much debt. Right now it’s still me that has to be the main person to see if I can retrieve her house… just have to try to give her something back. She gave each of us a place to live, it was well furnished, everything modernized that you would want in your house, now everything gone in the twinkle of an eye.”
Haron thanks God that his family is safe and sound. On Friday he spoke with the STAR about a conversation he’d had with his son after the fire.
“My son was like Daddy, I’m so sorry,” he said. “He told me he didn’t even realize what really happened and the damage it caused. I told him you see the reason I’ve always been speaking to you, telling you about matches and stuff like that, you see what it can cause? Right now Daddy doesn’t have a place to stay, you don’t have a place to stay . . . We are all homeless. You see when Daddy speaks to you and tells you certain things are not good to do . . .”
“I couldn’t really be hard on him because I feel if I was, I would make him more frightened,” he continued. “I talked to him firmly so he could understand, and through his eyes it was like, Daddy I don’t even know what to tell you. Through his emotions and the way he’s acting, that alone can tell you how he feels. The way he looks at me, like daddy I’m so sorry. He apologized but he still can’t believe that’s what happened. I’ve forgiven him, I have to. He’s a kid.”
As hard as the situation is, Haron feels it’s one of life’s “learning the hard way” moments.
“To tell you the truth this is a lesson for him and for everyone to realize the importance of being obedient,” Haron expressed. “It’s still my responsibility at the end of the day. Normally when we leave the house we always hide the matches. It just happened that day, that particular day; we ended up forgetting the matches there. “My mom was literally in the house, it wasn’t like there was no one there. This was not a case of negligence, my mom was there, she went upstairs for a couple minutes trying to get my brother’s daughter’s hair combed to hurry up and get back downstairs. That little moment, she left them not expecting that to happen. She said it happened so suddenly, there was nothing she could do. There was one thing on her mind, saving the children.
“Everyone is embracing everyone else and that’s what we need,” he says. “The most important thing is love, life and family. Family is the most important, in spite of us losing material things that can be replaced. Imagine if I was at work and they told me my son got burnt in the fire. . . it would be an even worse blow. It could happen to anyone, no matter how cautious we are to stop certain things, when they’re there to happen, there’s nothing you can do. I forgive him wholeheartedly, but it still grieves me to see we have to start all over.”
Editor’s Note: Haron Hippolyte is an employee of the STAR Publishing Company in our Bindery Department. We would like to offer our sympathies to him and his family as they strive to get back on their feet. You all are in our thoughts as you try to rebuild your life.
Persons wishing to donate items to the family can do so at our STAR offices in Massade, Gros Islet. Call: 450-7827.