For many, Jan. 1 marks a new beginning, a time to start over, but that wasn’t really what Tad and Donna Kay (Howell) Hall had in mind for this year. They liked things just the way they were.

Starting over wasn’t a choice, but a necessity, however, after their home was destroyed by an early morning fire, gone before the first day of 2010 had even dawned.

“My husband woke me up at 6:13, yelling for me to call 911, the house was on fire,” Donna Hall said. “In less than 30 minutes it was gone. I lost my van, everything. And my husband, he burned himself getting me out. All we got out with was what we had on.”

The Halls are thankful for the insurance they had on the home that now sits broken and charred in the valley at the end of Bell Road, just west of McAlester. But it won’t be able to replace the mementos and family history lost in the fire that started when a droplight set up to keep the family dog warm fell and ignited wood shavings. Donna Hall knows how fortunate they are to have survived, but the loss is a painful one, nonetheless.

“I lost my mother just two years ago,” she said. “So much of that stuff she gave me, and that, I can’t get back.”

Still, Hall has gained something she never expected, too.

“We so appreciate everything everyone is doing for us,” she said. “Our neighbor, Carl Sanders, gave us a lot of things. Our insurance agent, Clem Santine, gave Tad the coat off his back, and I’m driving his car right now.”

Immediately after the fire, while the home still smoldered in the early morning light, more neighbors appeared to lend a hand.

“Judy and Billy Ray Henry came and brought clothes, and helped us start going through the rubble,” Hall said. “They’re real special friends.”

Tad Hall is a driver for Simonton Windows, which has given the couple $300; and a stranger who overheard Donna Hall’s story while she was searching for clothing in a department store later that day walked up and handed her $100.

“I bought underwear and socks, a couple of shirts and jackets, and that $100 paid for all of that,” she continued. “I’m a Facebooker, and after I told my story there, Vickie Reeder saw it and brought me two bags full of clothes from JCPenney. Everything we’ve gotten has been real nice things.

“When stuff like that happens, you need compassion. I’ve always been a compassionate person myself, but it makes you even more so after you’ve been through something like this.”

Donna Hall is looking through the clothing and other items given to her and her husband in the last few days to see if there might be things that would help another family in the area going through the same crisis, even while struggling to cope with her own loss.

“I’m just numb,” she said. “My contacts (lenses) burned up, I couldn’t see. Thank goodness my sister and I wear the same size clothes.”

Donna Hall grew up near Stuart, and she knew the surrounding area, all the way to McAlester and beyond, was a tight community, watching over its own. But she never expected to be on the receiving end of the generosity so readily endowed on those in need.

“They have nothing,” said Vivian Wade, a member of the Pathway to Truth Church in Krebs, where the Halls also attend. “Not even a pair of shoes. They just lost everything.”

So the church is stepping up to help, as well, holding a fundraiser after services on Sunday.

“We have a money tree with ribbons on it, and people can tie donations to the tree with the ribbons,” Wade explained.

“New Year’s didn’t start off very good,” Donna Hall said sadly. “The devil may have took my home, but the Lord will get the glory for all the good that’s come of it. We’ll rebuild here. Why would we want to live anywhere else? This is the best community in Oklahoma.”

For more information on how to help the Halls call 302-0499.

Contact Mandy Carter at

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