A week after fire ravaged their Breaux Bridge home, Sekeou and Lakeshia Brown surveyed the charred debris of their kitchen. As they walked around the collapsed structure, they pointed out the remnants of their family’s life in the 1000 block of Nanny Road.
Lakeshia Brown picked up a broken cereal bowl from the ground, part of a set her mother left her when she passed. The dishes, family pictures, keepsakes — all up in flames, she said.
Two years ago, the couple bought the home from Sekeou Brown’s cousin, who was planning to put it on the market. The home and the land behind it originally belonged to Sekeou Brown’s maternal grandparents, and they wanted to keep it in the family, he said.
It was the first house the couple owned, after years of renting and going through the struggle of living paycheck to paycheck. Finally, they’d have security, and property to leave their children if something happened to them, Lakeshia Brown said.
“No longer a slave to anyone,” Sekeou Brown said.
That dream seemed to go up in smoke when a pot on the kitchen stove caught fire around midnight March 19.
The couple, their nine children and 2-year-old granddaughter were settling in for bed when the pot caught fire. One of their children had been cooking French fries, Lakeshia Brown said.
Kenyon Brown, 16, said he quickly tried to extinguish the growing flames, but instead the fire spread. He grabbed the family’s two fire extinguishers, but neither worked. Next, he turned to pots of water, then a sheet to beat the flames down. Sekeou Brown rushed into the kitchen to help his son, but he said the flames quickly leaped up the walls.
Lakeshia Brown and her daughter Tayla Brown, 14, hurried the other children out of the home as the blaze swept through the building. They stood outside as they watched the house catch, portions of the roof caving in as their SUV in the carport caught fire.
Nearly everything they owned was eventually destroyed in the fire, but the couple said losing material possessions pales in comparison to the harm that could’ve come to their family.
“We don’t believe we’re victims. I know we’re the victors in this situation. We made it out of there like superheroes,” Sekeou Brown said.
In the days since the blaze, the family said they’ve received an outpouring of love from the community.
Co-workers at Courtyard Manor Assisted Living and Nursing Home, where Lakeshia Brown works with her daughters Imani Brown, 21, and Ebony Brown, 20, have supported them, as well as the St. Martin Parish School System, which provided new school uniforms and backpacks for the Browns’ seven school-age children.
The Browns have children at Breaux Bridge Elementary School, Breaux Bridge Junior High School and Breaux Bridge High School.
“People are uplifting us and telling us we’re going to have more than what we had. Our house will be more beautiful than it was,” Lakeshia Brown said.
The couple said their faith in God is guiding them through this trial.
In the aftermath of the fire, the family recovered several family bibles and worship books from the rubble. Sekeou Brown held one in his hands this week, marveling at how the flimsy pages escaped the fire that consumed most of his family’s belongings.
“Everything else is going to pass away but the Word of God,” he said, as he raised his arms to the sky and held back tears.
Even with faith, it’s a long road ahead.
The family didn’t have insurance and won’t be able to file a claim for their lost property, they said.
The children are split between family members’ homes while the parents stay in a Lafayette hotel off Evangeline Thruway with assistance from the Red Cross. Staying with family ensures the children can continue attending school with less interruption, but Lakeshia Brown said being without her children is disconcerting.
Each morning Lakeshia Brown said she makes a list of things to accomplish, because otherwise she gets overwhelmed. The family needs new social security cards, birth certificates, bank cards, a new title and deed for their property — the list goes on.
As they whittle it down, they’re planning for the future. Lakeshia and Sekeou Brown said they plan to rebuild, but in the meantime Lakeshia Brown said she wants to get a trailer for the property to reunite her family. Being separated is hard, and she doesn’t want to wait to be back under the same roof as her children again.
As they move forward, the couple said they’re keeping their eyes on what matters – God and family.
“He’s never let us down before. Being a big family, we’ve been in some tough places before. But He always shows up and shows out right on time,” Sekeou Brown said.
The family has started a GoFundMe to assist in recovery. To donate, click here.