By Becky Jane Newbold,
Associate Editor, Lewis County Herald
It was 3 a.m. when she awoke to smoke alarms blaring and a hot, smoke filled house. On the second floor with a six month old and a four year old, Kerri Anthony knew she and the children were in dire straits.
From the top of the staircase, she could feel the heat and see flames below so they returned to the bedroom and shut the door. When Thursday morning’s blaze broke, Kerri’s husband was away from home working so the survival of their daughter Briley, and son, Bentley, was all in her hands.
Raised on a farm, Kerri had ridden horses and worked cows her entire life so she was well aquainted with taking risks. She also knew when and how to make a hard decision.
She would have to jump from the second story.
“He was so good. He listened to me and didn’t panic,” Kerri said explaining how she opened the window to her daughter’s room, punched out the screen and sat four year old Bentley on the window sill.
“I told him to wait,” she said, while she jumped with the baby, two stories down to the sidewalk.
“I must have dropped Briley during the fall,” Kerri said Tuesday during a telephone interview. She remembers jumping and then “it’s kind of a blur.” She remembers seeing Briley on the sidewalk next to her. When she went to pick Briley up, Kerri couldn’t move her arm and realized it was broken.
Without concern for her arm, Kerri called back to Bentley who bravely obeyed, jumping with great faith into his mother’s arms.
Because their dog had puppies, the garage door had been left open to allow her to come and go. The family was able to get into the car and get away from the burning house, Kerri told. The four year old was a great help to his mother, opening the car door and helping get his six month old sister into the vehicle, Kerri said.
During the thrust to get out of the house, Kerri had tossed her cell phone out of the window. She told how she went to retrieve it and only found pieces of the phone lying about the yard. Able to find the front of the phone and the battery, she assembled it well enough to call 911 for emergency help.
Then she called her dad.
“It’s amazing how tough that girl is,” her dad, Kenny Ellison said. Kerri suffered a shattered wrist, broken toes and had cuts, scrapes and bruises over much of her body, especially her legs. Both she and little Briley were in the intensive care unit at Vanderbilt University Medical Center for several days before being released. Doctors were concerned with swelling in Briley’s neck but a check up on Tuesday afternoon showed Briley is recovering well from a cracked skull and hematoma.
Bentley was not injured.
“We were sleeping in the baby’s room because the house was struck by lightning the night before,” Kerri said, and the TVs were out. The DVD player in her daughter’s room worked and they fell asleep together there watching a video.
“By the time I got the window open, I’m not sure I could have taken another breath,”Kerri said of the smoke. “I hate to think what could have happened.”
Robbie Anthony was on his way home from Nashville when he got the news his family was being transported due to the fire, so he met them at the hospital.
The young family is recooperating at her father’s (Kenny) house and mourning the loss of their dog, Buddy, a nine year old Chihuahua who was lost in the fire.
“God was on our side that night,” Kerri said.
The downstairs of the home was heavily damaged with smoke damage upstairs. The cause of the fire was unknown at press time Wednesday.
Members of the Hohenwald Volunteer Fire Department responded to the April 21, 2011 fire.