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Out of the ashes: Compassion

The loss still hasn't sunk in for the James and Connie Lawrie family of Alexandria.

They lost practically everything they owned in an early morning fire Sunday - their house at 1320 Bryant Street and their personal belongings.

But what is sinking in is the amazing generosity from the community.

Their church, Covenant Church at 4005 Dakota Street (near Target), has set up a collection site where residents have been dropping off clothes and other supplies.

People have also been offering prayers and comforting words of support, said James Lawrie when contacted by the newspaper Wednesday night.

"We feel so much love and compassion from the community," he said.

The family is also deeply grateful for their rescuers - neighbor Kacie Mercil and her friends who were celebrating a birthday when they noticed flames shooting out of the roof of the Lawrie home. They ran over to the house, woke the sleeping family up and helped everyone get outside just minutes before the roof of the home collapsed.

Since then, the family has been living out of a hotel, making endless phone calls, meeting with insurance adjusters and planning what to do next.

"It's been a whirlwind," James said.

The Lawries and their two daughters, ages 6 and 13, have lived in the area for about seven years.

The family has found out more information about the 2:30 a.m. fire that gutted their home, their first house, which they bought about four years ago.

One of the fire inspectors told them the fire likely started when a box of Christmas tree ornaments or an artificial tree in the attic near the chimney ignited.

The fire burned for an hour or more before neighbors spotted the flames and called 911. When firefighters arrived six to eight minutes later, the roof had already started to collapse.

What hasn't collapsed is the support and compassion from the community, said James, who is originally from Lakeville.

"From what I'm seeing in Alexandria," he said, "I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world."

How to help

Donated items such as clothes and supplies are being collected at Covenant Church in Alexandria for the James and Connie Lawrie family who lost their home in a fire Sunday. Clothes sizes: James - 38-inch waist; XL shirt; Connie - medium large tops; 6-year-old girl - size 7; 13-year-old girl - junior size 5.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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