FREDERICKTOWN — On the night of Feb. 11, Fredericktown resident Amy Morrison said instead of going to bed as she normally would, she fell asleep on the couch, exhausted from her day’s work as a nurse.
Gusty winds overnight woke her more than once as the back door slammed noisily in the storm. As she and her 17-year-old son, Derrick, slept in their house on West Sandusky Street, they had no way of knowing their neighbors across the street were in terrible danger, and that Morrison would play a key role in saving their lives before daybreak.
Morrison said she was awakened around 3:30 by the back door in the wind.
“I give God credit for banging that back door,” Amy said Thursday. “The back door was slamming because of the strong wind, so I got up to close it. I just happened to notice across the street there was a little glow — a glimmer around the door frame.”
As she paid closer attention to the home belonging to Don and Goldie McLaughlin, she realized the glow coming from the garage door was fire. Grabbing her cell phone to call 9-1-1 on the way out the door, she went to help.
“I ran across the street to knock on both neighbors’ doors,” she said.
The detached garage which was on fire was between the McLaughlins’ home and the house belonging to Bob and Marlene Collins. Flames were reaching toward both homes.
While Morrison was trying to alert her neighbors, a short distance across town Fredericktown Police Officer Nick Holdren was patrolling near the high school. He noticed a glow in the sky coming from the direction of West Sandusky Street, and went to investigate. He found the garage completely in flames and reported the fire to the Knox County dispatch center.
“I saw her [Morrison] running back and forth from neighbor to neighbor, and I asked her if she’d been able to wake anybody up in either house,” Holdren said.
The Collins family was out of town at the time of the fire, and the house was empty. The McLaughlins were asleep in a bedroom on the second floor, unaware of the smoke and flames.
As Morrison pounded on the McLaughlins’ door, Goldie, who is 87 and uses a walker, went to find out what was happening.
“She said your garage is on fire,” Goldie recalled. “I started screaming for my husband to get up quick. I was trying to dial 9-1-1 and couldn’t.
“Amy started to carry me out because my legs started to buckle on me,” she said.
Morrison carried Goldie down the steps and set her down on the lawn. Holdren came out of the house with Don, and picked Goldie up to carry her to Morrison’s house.
Goldie said that until that night, she only knew Morrison and her son to say hello in passing. But when her neighbor came to her door that night, a strong and permanent bond was formed between the two families.
“She was a jewel and it was a gift from God to have her,” Goldie said.
The fire caused damage to the siding of the Collins home. The McLaughlins garage and vehicle were completely destroyed, and their rear enclosed porch was damaged. Don lost his workshop and the couple lost some keepsakes. But the home was saved, and Goldie said they feel blessed to have survived the fire and kept their home.
The commendation from the Fredericktown Village Council spells out the “heroic and selfless actions” of Morrison and Holdren.
“Patrolman Holdren grabbed Mr. McLaughlin and forced him from the scene just as the McLaughlins’ car exploded in the garage, and Patrolman Holdren with the help of Ms. Morrison assisted Mrs. McLaughlin from the premises by physically carrying her to safety,” the resolution reads.
The McLaughlins said they will never forget the brave actions of Morrison and Holdren. Smoke detectors on the second floor never sounded because the large fire was outside the area the detectors were able to monitor.
“You did a good job that morning,” Police Chief Jerry Day told Holdren and Morrison.
“You could not have helped two nicer people,” Mayor Roger Reed told them. “Naturally, I’m very proud of our law enforcement officer. [And] probably if it hadn’t been for Amy, the response wouldn’t have been near as quick.”
“There’s no doubt in my mind that her waking up and starting the notification process was key to providing the time we needed to keep the fire from destroying both homes,” Mast said.
“We just couldn’t thank the fire department, police department, and everyone who came to help enough,” Goldie said, adding that Margaret Bryan welcomed the couple into her home after the fire.
“We just thank everyone for their prayers and gifts large and small,” Goldie said. “God’s been so good to us.”
She said she and her husband consider Amy a special gift.
“She saved us,” Goldie said. “Praise the Lord, for her. She saved our lives.”
“We didn’t know we did anything out of the ordinary,” Morrison said. “I give God all the credit for waking me up that night.”