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New home, new beginning

From right Tyrese Thompson, 9, cousin JaQuan Manning, 8, and Cornell Thompson, 10 play video games during Saturday's move into their new house.
From right Tyrese Thompson, 9, cousin JaQuan Manning, 8, and Cornell Thompson, 10 play video games during Saturday's move into their new house.

Unpacked boxes. Unorganized furniture. Nothing left to pluck from the U-Haul, but plenty sat in Zanita Thompson's new backyard.

Amid moving chaos on Saturday, Thompson's smile seemed to erupt from the depths of her soul.

Fitfteen days ago, most of Thompson's possessions were reduced to charred rubble. An early morning fire at her downtown apartment put her youngest son, Tyrese, in the hospital in critical condition and left her family homeless.

Now, thanks to generous community-wide help, the Rock Hill woman and her family are living in a new house.

"It's home," Thompson said. "I've got all my family here, and I've got a roof over my head."

Thompson's sons also are grateful.

"It's a big house," Tyrese said. "It's pretty."

Big brother Cornell's favorite spot is his new bedroom, but he is more excited about having Tyrese, who had been staying with relatives after his June 12 release from the hospital, back at home.

"We can play with each other," Cornell said. "Now, I don't have to be bored."

Meanwhile, Derrick Stradford, 17, found his special place outside.

"I've never really had a backyard," he said. "We can go outside, throw the football around and have some fun."

Fire started in kitchen

On June 7, Thompson and fiancé, J.C. Bowler, prepped some fish to fry, but their dinner plans were interrupted when Derrick called for a ride home from work. The couple left their Main Street apartment, where Thompson forget about the grease heating on the stove in the kitchen.

Across the way, Cornell and Tyrese Thompson slept while their cousins, Swadarrius Pressley and Darryl Coleman, watched TV nearby. Then, an alarm went off, and survival skills kicked in as Swadarrius and Darryl climbed to the roof and had Cornell jump into neighbors' arms. When the teens went back into the burning apartment to find Tyrese, flames and several crashes forced them back to the roof.

Moments later, firefighters rescued an unconscious Tyrese from the apartment. Officials also rescued Swadarrius and Darryl, both 15, from the roof. Three days later, Zanita Thompson was discouraged knowing she nearly lost two nephews and her sons.

Looking forward

But on Saturday, an upbeat, renewed and smiling Zanita Thompson concentrated on moving forward in her new house. She is especially grateful to those who rallied behind her during her time of need.

"I had some blessings, and they changed my way of thinking," she said. "I'm at peace now."

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