Grace Martin was married to her husband Jack for 68 years before he died in 2012. Now, only one thing he left behind still stands.
The only thing left to remind Grace Martin of her husband is the old, red barn that resides next to what’s left of her home.
Jack Martin’s pictures, Stetson hats, cowboy boots and bolo ties are all gone, swallowed by the flames that engulfed Grace’s home days after Hurricane Irma washed the 10-acre property with 3 feet of floodwater.
In woods so thick you’d think you were in a national park as opposed to the city of Bunnell, John Martin sat helplessly as his mother’s memories turned to smoke and ash.
“I just watched it burn,” said John, who moved into the house to help his now 90-year-old mother pay the bills after his father died in 2012. “There was nothing I could do.”
With the flames gone and the ground mostly dried up, John trudges through muck, puddles and rotting catfish to take a look at the home his father built in 1988. Days prior, the floodwaters from the hurricane were up to his knees.
The Martins didn’t get power back until Friday, Sept. 15, and 10 minutes didn't go by before smoke started to billow from the windows.
John attempted to douse the fire with well water from a hose, but the water pump stopped working.
John said it took the fire department 25 minutes to get to the property, located at 6355 County Road 305. The likely cause of the fire was a fuse box that had shorted out.
“I just felt so bad,” John said. “All my stuff got burned up and everything, but I want my mom to get something out of this because this is everything she had. Everything she had to hold onto my dad is gone, except for that barn.”
One other thing survived, though.
The family’s 4-year-old cat, Smokey.
“My mom was more worried about the cat than anything,” John said. “He jumped through flames to get out of that house.”
Staring at what’s left of the little white house, John said there’s something else he’s grateful for: that he and his mom weren’t in the home at the time of the fire.
They were staying at his sister’s house only 100 yards away.
“My mom would have been grabbing things off the wall. I would have had to drag her out of the house,” John said. “God was looking out for us.”
For those interested in helping the Martin family, visit their GoFundMe page to make a donation.