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Sunday, January 20, 2013 - 12:06am
James and Theresa O'Rourke were away from their home celebrating New Year's Eve with friends and family, when just before midnight, a neighbor called them to warn their house was on fire. The couple rushed back home and something terrified them even worse than the burning house.
"At first I thought my daughter was in the house because she was getting ready to go out. And I wanted to go in, into the house but a neighbor held me back," says Theresa O'Rourke.
That morning, fire crews took the O'Rourkes on a tour of their ruined home. It was devastating and the days that followed felt even worse.
"We were all separated for about 2 weeks. Our girl was over at one friend's and our boy was at another friend's. We were staying with friends and colleagues. But we're all together now and we're all in a better place," says James O'Rourke.
After staying in a hotel, then with friends, the O'Rourkes moved in to a rental home in East El Paso. Theresa and James were able to save a small pile of belongings. James, an artist and sculptor, tries to salvage some of his pieces.
"I've lost a lot of artwork and i've lost all my tools and i lost my van. But those are just things that we can replace," says James.
The fire ripped their home apart but the experience has brought them closer together.
"We look at each now differently every day. Where we used to get on each other's nerves over little things and get mad, now we just try to look past them," says James.
"I think the rest of my life, when I see someone in need, I will never turn away from that because I know how it feels," says Theresa.
The O'Rourkes can't find the words to thank all the local schools, businesses, and families that are helping.
"The schools here and the families and the parents and the kids, I mean even children, little kids, wanting to help us," Theresa says.
"If we've forgotten you, please know that it's just overwhelming. And we thank you all. Thank you," says James, as he holds back tears.
Local businesses are also helping the O'Rourkes through donations and benefit events.
Handlebars Bar and Grill on 1731 North Lee Trevino Drive had a benefit concert today from 9pm until 1am.
Chili's on Airway will donate 10% of their evening sales on January 31st.
James and Theresa O'Rourke have also set up a bank account at the Teacher's Federal Credit Union where people can donate to their family fund. That account number is 123128S2.