Community Rallies Around Family After Devastating Fire

Susan Brann’s Loudoun County, Va., home was still smoldering after a devastating Sunday evening fire when neighbors rolled out a sign reading “Stone Ridge is here for you.” Behind that promise, a Facebook page seeking contributions that had 1,000 members in less than 24 hours.

The fire that destroyed the Brann home was just one of several tragedies to strike Susan and her two children in recent years. Her husband, Robert Brann, died suddenly of a heart attack two years ago. Then both Susan’s mother and mother-in-law passed away in the past year.

“I’ve been through a lot,” Susan said. “The last 2½ years have been very difficult.”

On Sunday, Susan, her 17-year-old daughter, 12-year-old son and family guests escaped unharmed when a propane tank fueling the back deck grill caught fire and exploded. By the time fire crews arrived, the home was engulfed, the smoke visible for miles.

As neighbors gathered, word spread about the family’s string of tragedies.

“I could hardly sleep that night, just thinking about them and I got up early Monday morning and tried to think of the quickest way to spread the word,” said Stone Ridge resident Maureen Bradham.

Another neighbor, Traci Wilson, joined her to organize a campaign to support the family in the wake of this latest setback. The “Help the Brann Family” Facebook page has already raised more than $5,000 in cash contribution. Neighbors also have donated $3,500 in gift cards and dropped off clothes, toiletries and other items the family will need to start over.

The women plan to keep the donations coming in the weeks ahead.

“It reinforces the fact that people are good,” Wilson said. “There will be people today, tomorrow and a year from now just helping them get through this. She doesn’t have to do this by herself.”

Susan Brann said she burst into tears when she saw the sign in front of her house. Neighbors presented her with a wagon full of many of their contributions.

“I’m overwhelmed,” Brann said. “I’m just shocked with the support and everything.”

The loss of the house is compounded by the fact that many photos of the late Robert Brann have been burned. But Susan Brann’s spirits were lifted, too, when a friend was able to retrieve at least one undamaged picture from the rubble.

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