When Margie Knight drives by her house on Yorktown Court in Sterling, she is reminded of what it looked like when it was being built 23 years ago, a slab of cement surrounded by a few wooden beams, scraps of debris everywhere.
Knight lost her home to a fire Tuesday, April 10. The fire quickly spread to the Zurita family house next door. By the time the fire crews from Sterling, Ashburn, Fairfax County and Dulles Airport responded to the two fires, both homes were engulfed in flames.
"Somehow we’re surviving," Knight said. "Thanks to a wonderful neighborhood, we’re getting through it."
Knight and Tashieka Zurita stood shoulder to shoulder at Dominion High School the morning of Tuesday, May 1, to watch their sons each receive a check from the school’s Red Cross Club, made up of students in grades nine through 12.
Last week, the club held a fund-raiser at Chick-fil-A at Sugarland Crossing in Sterling. Aaron Good, a sophomore at Dominion High School and member of the Red Cross Club, presented Jonathan Knight, who is also a sophomore at Dominion High School, with a handshake and check. Dee Dee Fryer, a junior at Dominion High School, presented J.C. Zurita, a sixth-grader at Seneca Ridge Middle School, with a check from Chick-fil-A as well.
"All I can say is thank you!" J.C. Zurita said rubbing the back of his 4-year-old brother, Nicholas.
TASHIEKA ZURITA chased her son Nicholas around the main lobby of Dominion High School.
"We’ve taken the punches and rolled with them," she said. "It has been a learning experience. I have a totally different perspective on life now."
Even though the Zurita family calls a nearby hotel home, for now, Tashieka Zurita said she tries to maintain a sense of normalcy for the boys. She keeps them on their schedules and makes play dates with their friends.
"I try not to get too stressed," she said. "As long as I keep a positive outlook on things, we will be fine and the community has made such a big difference."
Tashieka Zurita and Margie Knight made plans to pick up and drop off their sons from school, after the check presentation.
"We are the original owners of our house," Margie Knight said. "I’ve known J.C.’s dad since he was 11."
THE BEST PART about the Sterling neighborhood, Margie Knight said, is the people in it, especially the children, she said. They are the reason she is anxious to move back to Yorktown Court.
"Now we know from personal experience that when a fire occurs, people come to help," she said. "They come and they stay, even when it’s cold outside and it is late at night and they are not getting paid and they have their own lives to live and families to love. They come and they drive by to see what has happened and to make sure we are OK."
Margie Knight’s son, David, is a student with special needs.
"The kids are wonderful to him," she said. "Everyday there’s someone knocking my door, asking for David to come out and play."
On the day of the fire, two Seneca Ridge Middle School students, Kimberly Evans and Megan Huff, noticed smoke coming from the Knights' garage. The two girls raced to the Knights' front door and alerted Margie Knight of the fire. Margie Knight called the local fire department while Kimberly and Megan led David across the street to safety.
"We faced him away from the fire so he wouldn’t get scared," Kimberly said. "It was like, instinct," Megan said. "I wasn’t thinking I could get hurt. I was just worried about them."
THE LOUDOUN COUNTY Fire Marshal’s Office charged two juveniles in connection with two house fires in Yorktown Court and Yorktown Way. The two middle-school-aged boys are charged with breaking and entering into the homes and setting the fires.
"The fire was started by one of those kids that knock on my door every day," Margie Knight said. "I appreciate those kids, and I am concerned about the families of those kids."
One week after the fire, Margie Knight wrote an e-mail to friends and neighbors. In it, she thanked them for their support. At the time, the Knight and Zurita families had few answers to the many questions they had about the fires, but that was not the focus of the e-mail.
"What we do know is this: We live in a wonderful neighborhood within a wonderful community. The outpouring of support from family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, acquaintances and strangers has been nonstop and overwhelmingly kind, generous and helpful," she wrote in her e-mail. "Our house was set on fire and lots of stuff is gone. In its place are overwhelming feelings of gratitude for the people whose lives we share and who have come forward to share this experience with us."