MYRTLE BEACH — Residents of Windsor Green community found catharsis in reuniting with friends and neighbors Thursday, almost one month after a fire destroyed nearly 30 buildings in their condominium development in Carolina Forest.
Around 40 people gathered in Myrtle Beach Thursday at the Hilton Garden Inn near Coastal Grand Mall to reflect on the horror of that day, talk about life in the weeks since and shake the hands of neighbors who they hadn’t met previously, but are now connected to through tragedy.
There were no fatalities in the March 16 fire, but 190 people lost everything. In many cases, people lost everything except the clothes on their backs.
Raelene Peterson lost her cat, Pyewacket, a name the Siamese feline shared with the animal who co-starred with James Stewart in 1958’s “Bell Book and Candle.”
Peterson said she went to the Horry County Animal Shelter shortly after the fire to identify her pet.
Gina O’Dell still holds out hope that she’ll soon find her cat, Samantha.
When she and her husband, Bobby O’Dell, fled their condo, they were able to grab one of their cats, Frankie. Samantha wasn’t so lucky.
“It kills me that I wasn’t able to grab her,” Gina O’Dell said through tears. “I just want her back.”
The O’Dells carry around flyers with a picture of Samantha, who has long black hair and is de-clawed.
Gina O’Dell holds out hope because of stories circulating at the gathering about Carolina Forest residents leaving out food for some of the missing animals, whose pictures have been posted on social media sites like Facebook.
Samantha is one of them.
The tragedy and the loss of March 16 is very much still on the minds of the victims from the Windsor Green blaze. However, there also was a sense some things are returning to normal.
Peterson said she’s since returned to work as the group sales manager at the local Medieval Times.
“The job’s still there,” she said.
Julie Tudino, who has been staying with a friend since losing her condo, said she’s had some issues getting her mail forwarded to her.
But events like the one on Thursday, she added, was a nice way to reconnect with friends both old and new.
Tom McDonald, general manager at the Hilton Garden Inn, said he was inspired to help out because of the impact Hurricane Sandy had on his parents’ New Jersey home.
McDonald, who grew up in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., said his parents lost the first floor of their home.
He tried to do the best he could in helping those in his home community. So, when the opportunity came McDonald offered his hotel’s conference rooms as a social hall.
“I think it’s great,” said Windsor Green resident Susan Coppola.
Contact BRAD DICKERSON at 626-0301 or follow him at Twitter.com/TSN_bdickerson.