Steve Campbell lived in the Hotel Do De for 18 years, and as he watched it burn down, all he could see were his memories going with it.
Campbell, along with 27 other individuals, has been displaced by the fire that burnt down Hotel Do De in Bellefonte in the early morning of Sept. 9 and is one of many being housed by the Red Cross in the Trinity United Methodist Church.
“I was crying, watching it burn,” Bridget Rossman, who lived in the apartment behind Hotel Do De, said. “I kept thinking that it was going to be our house next.”
Rossman said she and her five kids have been staying at the church with the other people who have been displaced by the fire.
She said Red Cross has been wonderful with providing necessities for the displaced and if it weren’t for them, she and her family would have nowhere to stay.
Rossman said relocating to the church has not affected her family and said her youngest daughter is probably getting more attention now than she was before from what she described as an extended family.
“I told them I want their numbers, and if I have to chase them down, I’m going to chase them down to get it,” Rossman said. “Once this is all done, we’re all settled, we’re going to have a big cookout. I don’t care if it’s in the dead of winter.”
Larry Heeman, who also lived in Hotel Do De, said it was an adjustment to the new surroundings, but said this was just a new day and a new challenge for him.
He said when the fire first began, he assumed the fire department would put it out and he would be able to return to his room; however, this was not possible.
“I’m going to be better off after all this than I was there,” Heeman said. “I had a Walmart driver buy me two jackets. There are a lot of friends. People are coming to the rescue.”
Campbell said despite the bad, the residents were also lucky the fire started when it did, or else there would have been no one in the bar to alert the fire department.
Connie Stoner, who works as a volunteer at Red Cross, said she has seen that as people leave the church for new, permanent residents, they return to check on their friends who are still there.
Stoner said the biggest struggle for the Red Cross has been finding volunteers for the shelter. She said they recently deployed volunteers for Hurricane Isaac, and had only local volunteers left.
“I’m amazed at how quickly everything fell together,” Stoner said. “I wouldn’t have believed we could have done this.”