Nathaniel and Jesica Greek know about loss.
First, the Tega Cay couple lost a 3-year-old, a fraternal twin of their youngest son, four years ago. Then, an early morning fire last Friday gutted their home of nearly three years, leaving them homeless.
"We are thankful that everybody is safe," Jesica, 31, the mother of three boys, said. "We know God is always faithful. He always takes care of us."
That almost wasn't the case. The 3 a.m. blaze at 1098 Wind Song Bay in the Lakeshore subdivision nearly robbed Nathaniel of his life - except that Jesica refused to let death rob her family again.
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She couldn't leave her husband in a room riddled with thick smoke and massive orange-red flames.
"I think my blood oxygen level had gone so low that had my wife not awakened me, I don't believe that I would have survived the fire," Nathaniel, 36, said hours after the fire.
That makes Jesica a hero, he said.
"Everyday," he said. "Today, too."
But Jesica wouldn't accept the accolade born out of a fire's wrath. Instead, she said, she did what she had to to save her husband. Nearly 12 hours after the fire, it was all she could think about.
Nathaniel was sleeping in the couple's master bedroom. A room away, Jesica fell asleep in a chair. Around 2 a.m., she got up.
"I got a glass of milk and went back to sleep," she said.
But her sleep was broken about an hour later by a voice from her CCI security system. And smoke encroached.
"I think she said, 'Do you need assistance,'" Jesica recalled. "I said, 'Yes. We have a fire.'"
And it didn't look good, she said.
"I saw thick smoke," she recalled. "All the smoke detectors were going off."
The alarms woke Jesica's sons, William, 11, Nicholas, 9, and Zachary, 7.
"I told them, 'We have a fire. Go to our meeting spot.'"
With the boys on their way to safety, Jesica turned her attention to the master bedroom from which smoke was bellowing, she said.
"I pushed open the door, and the wall was engulfed in flames," she recalled. "My husband was sleeping in the bed next to that wall and had not awakened."
Then, the door slammed shut.
"There was so much heat and pressure coming out of the room that I couldn't get the door back open," she said. "I was banging on the door and yelling for him."
Time stood still.
Then, "He awakened and was able to open the door from the inside," she said.
Though out of immediate harm's way, the couple had yet to make it out of their two-story house. Doing so was a feat in itself, Jesica said.
"My husband was real disoriented from being in the room," Jesica recalled of the trip down about 15 steps. "I had to help him down the steps. It was rough."
The couple fought the smoke.
"We were able to get out," she said. "We were covered in soot."
The couple joined their boys across the street at their designated safety spot.
Meanwhile, the Tega Cay Fire Department arrived.
"The upstairs was engulfed in flames," Fire Chief Scott Szymanski said about the 3 a.m. fire call.
Approximately 45 firefighters from the Flint Hill and Tega Cay fire departments battled the blaze at the brick and siding home for about 45 minutes. They remained at the scene for several hours Friday and worked "hot spots as others probed the fire's cause before leaving around 11:30 a.m.," he said.
Szymanski said preliminary findings suggest the fire started in an upstairs bedroom, he said.
"They think that it started in the wall from an electrical outlet," Jesica said fire officials told her.
Damages are estimated between $350,000 and $500,000, Szymanski said. "It's pretty much a total loss," Jesica Greek said. "Our roof caved in on the second floor. The roof fell in on all the rooms."
The Greeks were taken to a hospital for smoke inhalation. They were treated and released, said a spokeswoman with Carolinas Medical Center in Pineville, N.C.
The couple's sons did not require medical attention, Szymanski said.
Picking up the remnants
On Friday, the Greeks tried to make sense of the fire. They spent the day picking up the pieces of their life. They tried to save what they could from their house, now just a shell.
"We are overwhelmed by the damage," Jesica said.
Despite their disaster, Jesica is grateful for the fire safety plan -- practiced frequently -- that her boys followed.
"They did exactly what I told them," she said. "It was amazing."
For now, the family will bunk down with other family members. Soon, they will look at renting a home in the same subdivision, all the while focusing on moving on with their lives.
And Jesica's thankful for life: Death didn't strike twice.
"I've got my husband," she said.
Want to help?
Tega Cay Neighbors Helping Neighbors is accepting donations to help the Greek family. For details or to donate money, clothing or household items, call Bill Stumpf at 704-907-9471 or visit the group's Web site at tegacayneighbors.com.
Also, the Upper Palmetto chapter of the American Red Cross assisted the Greek family in the fire's aftermath. Since last Saturday, the agency has assisted eight families whose homes were damaged or destroyed by fires. If you'd like to help the nonprofit agency in its outreach, send checks payable to the American Red Cross, 200 Piedmont Blvd., Rock Hill, SC, 29732. Call 329-6575.