house fire
The fire started in the kitchen.

 It was sometime around 6 p.m. on Aug. 29. Brett Seitz, his wife Amber and their toddler Julian were shopping for a family car when a neighbor called. They rushed home and found five fire trucks blocking the street. Brett ran to the house just as firefighters carried out Duke, their yellow Lab. They said he died without pain.

The official report doesn't say what caused the blaze. It destroyed pretty much everything.

The day after the fire, Amber and Brett ventured back to the house. Inside it was a soggy, burned-out, smoky mess.

What do you look for, when it seems you've lost everything? Where do you go first?

Brett went straight to the living room wall, where he had hung an American flag signed by his platoon in Iraq. Some of the men who had signed the flag were gone. Brett loved keeping the flag, those names, close. He could look at it and remember his platoon leader,

Sgt. Julian Arechaga, killed in October 2006 by a roadside bomb. Brett had named his son after him.

The wall was smoke-stained and gray. The frame was destroyed. The glass was cracked and black. He couldn't even see the flag through the soot. He expected the worst.

Carefully, Brett took the frame down from the wall. He lifted off the glass.

There were the names. Unbelievably, the flag was fine.

Subscribe to the Times
Click here for daily delivery
of the Tampa Bay Times.

Email Newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT