One year later: Love of family keeps Lockhart children going
As families across the Tennessee Valley gather to celebrate the Christmas holiday, one Chattanooga family is reflecting on their blessings.
The day before Thanksgiving last year, the home of Randall and Candy Lockhart went up in flames. The couple did not survive. They left behind three children who are now in the care of their grandparents.
This past year for the Lockhart children has not been easy. But their grandparents, Gary and Susan Patterson, say they have been blessed by taking in their grandchildren. They are forever grateful to the Chattanooga community for supporting them.
"Under the circumstances, I think we've done real good. We've survived and that's the main thing for these children," says Gary Patterson.
Gary Patterson says there's not a day that goes by he doesn't think about losing his daughter, Candy, and son-in-law, Randall.
"That was Candy's room when she was growing up. And I still look for her everyday. Every day. But she's gone," he says.
Their memories live on through their children, nine-year-old Mark, 10-year-old Haley, and 11-year-old Rebecca.
"Everyone of them do. When I go in there and look in their beds and they're asleep, they all three look like Candy," says Gary.
Now, the children are his first priority.
"It's been a big adjustment. Because we thought we were retired. And now we found out we've got school. That's one of our biggest priorities, having to keep up with the kids at school," he says.
Over the past year, the Chattanooga Fire Department and community have rallied around this family.
"We're all grateful for everybody that's really helped these children and us."
As Christmas approaches, they are reflecting on what they are thankful for.
When asked what people should be thankful for this Christmas, Gary answers, "Their family. Their family."
They say love should be the focus of everyone this holiday season.
"I'm a lucky person to have them."
Because love is what is holding this family together.
"He loves me and I love my whole family," exclaims Haley.
Last year, the Lockhart children benefited from the Forgotten Child Fund, as a part of the Santa train. The family encourages others to donate to that fund or find a way to help others this season, even if it is a small act of kindness.