Like many families around this time, Michelle Seals-Lewis and her children had spent days getting their home ready for Christmas. But on Dec. 7, the unthinkable happened inside 13-year-old Essence's bedroom.
"I saw smoke and then I started smelling it too and then I was at the doorway and I ran to the doorway and saw the light and fire," Essence Seal said.
Fire ripped through the room, turning walls that were once beige in the Onondaga Avenue home to dark gray.
The spot where a TV stood is now a mangled mess of charred rubble. All of Essence's clothes and bags scattered throughout the room were destroyed by flames.
But perhaps the most valuable possession lost was a picture that hung on Essence’s bedroom wall.
"It was a picture of her and her mom and there's nothing left of that," said Michelle Seal-Lewis.
The picture was one Essence’s last possessions of her mother Chiarra Seals.
When just four-years-old, Essence’s father Brian Shaw strangled Chiarra to death in front of her.
In 2006, Shaw was sentenced to 21 years in prison for Chiarra’s death.
"She's 13 now and she's done well, she's done really well but this is not re-living it [the murder] but it's still a loss," said Lewis.
To help ease the family's burdens - a small army at Refuge Tabernacle in Syracuse is fighting to help the Seals family in their greatest time of need.
"Christmas time is a time of giving and it's not just a time for your family, but a time to help remember someone else,” said Audrey Gomez, who organized the donation drive for the Seals family.
“I feel joyous like having a jubilee right now. I’m really thankful for everybody doing this," Essence said.
The group is still accepting donations for the Seals' family and says they are in need of clothing and household items.
If you would like to donate, you can contact:
Mrs. Bobbie Simons at (315) 458-7691 or Mrs. Audrey Gomez at (315) 472-6550
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