ROANOKE (WSLS 10) — Their loss is unimaginable.
Lindsay and Tom McKinnon’s Roanoke County home was destroyed in a devastating fire in March that also killed their two boys, 10-year-old Patrick and 5-year-old Logan.
“Especially after something like this happens and you just realize when it seems like everything has just been taken away from you, exactly how much is left in your friends and your community and people who were there to gently catch you and help you,” said Tom McKinnon. “There’s just a lot left for us here.”
The McKinnons are recovering from their own injuries from that night as they tried to save their children. Tom had burns to his lower back and head, while Lindsay has a smoke inhalation injury on her vocal chords with scar tissue that will probably never go away, leaving her with a raspy voice.
They said they are coping as best they can.
“I think it’s hour by hour and day by day,” explained Lindsay McKinnon. “There are some days that I don’t want to get out of bed and there some days that I’m all gung-ho and incredibly productive.”
“We just get up every day and figure out how to take care of each other, get out of bed and do something because we think that’s what our boys would want us to do,” continued Tom. “We have tons of support from our friends and family and the community has been just been amazing. We just can’t there’s no way to thank them enough.”
They’re working now on a mission to help other families.
“I don’t really think that it was a decision,” Lindsay said. “I feel like it was more like a calling.”
A calling. A way to turn a tragedy into something else.
“We wanted to figure out a way to make some good come out of it,” Tom said. “The take away message was, you know, don’t think that this is something that can never happen to you because we never thought anything like this whatever happened to us. Fire safety is just one of those things I guarantee a lot of people don’t think about on a daily basis.”
“To be in a house fire trying to fall back on what I learned when I was in kindergarten is not acceptable,” Lindsay said.
The fire the McKinnons faced was fast. By the time smoke reached and sounded the alarm, they say their home was already fully involved.
“Stop drop and roll is not what needed to happen on March 19 in our house fire,” she said. “It was get out. Get out.”
“We’ve learned that by the time smoke alarms go off you only have one to three minutes to get out of the house and to call for help. Fires double in size every two minutes. It is fast and furious and you don’t have time to find your wherewithal. You have to immediately act.”
That’s why the couple is now working with local fire departments to raise a new level of awareness and to encourage and teach families to have a plan and practice in case the unthinkable happens to them.
“If you don’t practice those skills and drills… ” Lindsay paused. “You might not be quick enough,” Tom finished.
“It’s not quick enough,” she added.
As Tom and Lindsay described their boys, “Patrick and Logan they were the most fun-loving adventurous 200 percent boy, boy, boy, boy, boy. Little geniuses. Very affectionate,” she said with a smile. “They were spiritually inclined, Patrick especially but Logan is well,” she said. “They just loved everybody. they loved life.”
The parents find some comfort in working to potentially help someone else.
“It’s given me motivation and momentum and drive,” she said. “We weren’t able to save our kids but we might be able to save someone else’s. And it’s really important to be able to empower and equip other people.”
The McKinnons will take part in Roanoke’s Go Outside Festival (GO Fest) on Saturday, October 15.
They are collaborating with Roanoke, Roanoke County and Salem firefighters to promote fire safety drills and education. They will have tables set up with helpful information to share with families, practice drills and draw house layouts to help families develop exit strategies in the event of a fire.
While parents spend time talking to their children about a number of safety issues, including internet safety, stranger danger, learning how to swim, Lindsay says it’s important to teach fire safety at home as well.
GO Fest will take place October 14-16. Admission is free and the three-day event will include more than 100 other outdoor activities and events as well.