HOLIDAY — Every siren makes Bonnie Conlin's hair stand on end. Every screech of tires gives the 78-year-old woman chills.
Since a car crashed into her Holiday home two weeks ago, she has been unable to bring herself to put the furniture back the way it was, and not just because the front 2 feet of the house are boarded up. She had a hard time moving her armchair back to its place, knowing that if she had been sleeping there the night of the crash, as she had the night before, she would not have survived.
As it was, the errant Pontiac shattered the front window, smashed brick-covered concrete blocks at the garage, scattered the copies of Newsweek that Conlin had been reading, and ripped apart a couch.
It was 2:30 in the morning, and Mrs. Conlin and her husband, Earnest, had been sleeping in the back room. Earnest, who is 81 and doesn't hear well, slept through the crash.
The driver, Levar Darcy Murray, 22, of Tarpon Springs, was arrested on charges of fleeing an officer at high speed and leaving the scene of an accident. He remains in custody at the Land O'Lakes jail. Two unidentified passengers, a 23-year-old man and an 18-year-old woman, were flown to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, where they were treated and released.
The arrest was Murray's 20th. Just the week before, he had been charged in Pasco with possessing cocaine, driving with a suspended or revoked license and fleeing an officer, but he was released on $9,250 bail.
"I just hope they're keeping that guy locked up so he doesn't get out again," Mrs. Conlin said Friday.
The couple still live in the house at 3309 Holiday Lake Drive, their home since 1986. Despite the damage, they never had to leave.
"It's secure, but it's not put back like it's supposed to be," said Carrol Ann Simons, 68, a close family friend who helped the Conlins clean up after the crash.
They got the air conditioner fixed, and they got their car out of the garage. It's covered by insurance, but the house isn't.
The couple have hired Paul Davis Restoration for the remodeling. The front third of the house has to be replaced, said Rick Dannenmiller, owner of the Pasco franchise. The plywood wall that's there now secures the home and supports it structurally, he said.
Now a structural engineer is designing a plan, and once the county grants the permits, Dannenmiller expects construction to start in about a month.
Dannenmiller said a repair like this runs about $25,000. The Conlin's house was last appraised at about $56,000.
Asked how she would afford the repairs, Mrs. Conlin said, "We'll make it work."
In the meantime, they are comfortable in the house. The kitchen and their bedroom are fine.
"You just can't see out the front door," she said. (They use a side entrance.)
But the whole ordeal, she said, has "been hell." It has taken a lot out of her husband, who has to be on oxygen because of his heart condition. Now he's hooked up to an IV to pump up his blood iron levels.
"We'll make it," Mrs. Conlin said. "We'll come through it."
Isaac Arnsdorf can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6232.