By Carolina Espinal & Cesar Zafra
While on a school field trip for Black History Month, senior Lorrez Miller’s phone rang. In that moment, the only thing on her mind was how excited she was about making the down payment for the prom-dress of her dreams — that was before the phone call flipped her “whole world upside down” on Wednesday afternoon.
“I have bad news,” said her mother, distressed. Her mother explained that their house had burned from a candle-induced fire, but the severity of the situation had not processed for Miller.
“It didn’t really hit me… It was not until I actually went back home that I realized how terrible everything was,” Miller continued.
“You always hear about these things,” yet she never fathomed being the subject —rather than the observer— of a tragic story on breaking news outlets.
Upon seeing the ashes for herself, Miller reminisced about the memories that took place in the house — the same one that she moved to from London at seven years old.
Among the burned remains of her home was Miller’s most prized possessions: her diaries.
“I documented a lot of things,” Miller further explained that her diaries were “monumental” to her because she would later reflect on them and think, “I sat here and I wrote that.”
The entries were full of details, including the times and dates of each. She hoped to later read them to her children, as well as for herself. Of all her losses, she wishes that she didn’t have to lose her diaries to the flames.
Yet in the face of loss, Miller gained a support system. Her friend’s mother took her shopping at Target for necessities the same day of the incident. Miller felt thankful for her friends, whom she tries to spend time with as much as possible.
“I wasn’t used to accepting so much help,” she said. Miller was usually the type to give advice to others. Now others began to give her their condolences.
“I’m not the type of person to look down,” she said. Miller acknowledges that while her circumstances are “really overwhelming and hard,” she wants to keep things as normal as she can amidst a chaos of change and uncertainty.
Evidently, the trauma affects her daily school routine, making it more challenging than ever: “It’s really hard to learn.”
Miller was able to find something to look forward to, however. She received an acceptance notification from her top choice school, Florida International University, as well as Florida Memorial University. She plans to complete her Bachelor’s degree and later pursue a career in Business, and ultimately, become a wedding planner.
With optimism and a sign of hope, she noted that “every grey cloud has a silver lining.”
Currently, the family of five who is divided. Miller is staying at a friend’s house, her mother with a coworker, and her nine-year-old sister is with a neighbor.
“Today was my sister’s first day of taking the FCAT, so I’m worried about how she might be doing, ” she said, hoping that the incident wouldn’t affect her sister’s performance on the standardized exam.
Miller’s mother was in the house during the fire. Luckily, she and the family dog escaped unharmed, preventing Miller’s greatest fear, the loss of her “hero.”
Talking to her mother and sister frequently, she is trying to maintain the bond despite the distance between them. As of now, her family is trying to look for a temporary stay in a hotel.
The American Red Cross has offered relief operations through limited funds and items, but the Millers are still searching for financial assistance. In order to raise the funds to make their transition easier, they have opened a GoFundMe page.