For the Etchisons who lost their 3-year-old son in an arson fire last month, this Christmas season has been a time for family, remembering and healing.
Darryl Etchison Sr., said he was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the community following the Nov. 15 fire on South Second Street that claimed his son, D.J., and left the family homeless.
"We want to thank everyone personally, but we can't because we don't know their names," Darryl said, adding that had the tragedy unfolded in his hometown of New York City, there would "have been some love" but not near the amount shown by the people of the area.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
The Etchison family (from left), Janaya, 17, Madison, 2, Brandy, Kayla, 18, and Darryl Sr. gather in front of their Christmas tree with a photograph of D.J., who was killed in a fire on Nov. 15 at the family’s South Second Street home.
He said people donated money through a fund set up at M&T Bank as well as provided clothes and household items to help the family start over.
"I didn't know there was so much love up here," said his wife, Brandy, a Lewistown native. "There are a lot of people out there who made donations and didn't give a name. It's understandable they don't want the thanks, but we need to thank them."
Brandy Etchison said the family has in turn given many items, particularly duplicate items, to the Salvation Army and Goodwill, so others in need can benefit from the generosity shown by the community.
She broke her back in her escape through a third-story window, as flames ripped through the duplex where she, Darryl Jr., and her 2-year-old daughter, Madison, were sleeping. Still wearing a brace to support her back, Brandy Etchison said her recovery will take time, with more trips to the doctor in the coming weeks.
Madison, she said, is doing well but still has moments when the loss bubbles to the surface and overcomes the little girl.
"She sometimes breaks down and cries," Brandy Etchison said. "She wants D.J."
Last week the family moved into their new home, a house they are renting on Washington Avenue. Over the holidays, they plan to do some traveling to visit family in Lewistown and New York.
"This whole community has been a godsend," said Darryl Etchison Sr., who said he is still a bit upset the man suspected of starting the deadly fire, Aaron Dishong, 62, was able to commit suicide in jail while awaiting trial.
The tragedy has left both him and his wife heartbroken, he said, and already the family has sought help to deal with the psychological and emotional scars left by the fire.
Darryl Etchison Sr. said he's committed to being there for his family to guide them through what lies ahead.
"I'm fine - I don't need anything," he said. "I'm Ford-tough, but my family ... "
He said Spherion and the DeGol Organization, his employers, have been wonderful through the last weeks, but as the holidays wind down, it will be time to go back to work and deal with the tragedy day by day.
"When we get back to New York, it will be time to face reality," he said. "At least with counseling we can get the tools to be able to tell a 2-year-old what's going on."
Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock is at 946-7458.