Family sticks together after house fire

Monday, August 11, 2008

A fire made a house unlivable for the 11-member Coomer family. But in the face of the tragedy, the family stayed together and strong.

Dai Coomer, the father, 44, said he could've asked friends to take care of his children until they found a new house. He said he didn't because he likes keeping his family next to him.

"Sometimes you have to fill in the black side in order to enjoy the white," Coomer said, referring to a yin and yang symbol. "These things just make a person stronger."

Coomer was referring to the fire at noon Wednesday that damaged his family's house at 802 William St. The fire mostly stayed in the basement, but smoke damaged the upper floors and forced the family to move out that night.

At 11 a.m. Sunday, the 11-member Coomer family checked out of its two-bed room at the Town House Inn. The Red Cross paid for two rooms at the inn Thursday and Friday nights. The family didn't have anywhere to go Saturday night, so they paid for another night and all slept in one room. They couldn't afford another night, so the landlord of their new home at 814 Morgan Oak St. agreed to let them move in early, even though they didn't have the funds, said Betty Coomer, the mother.

"We couldn't stay out there like that," said Betty Coomer, 42. "The price of hotels is just awful."

The family could only salvage one full-size bed from their old home, she said, so they'll sleep on blankets and comforters tonight at their Morgan Oak Street home. She said her husband works at a mattress factory, and she's hoping beds can be easily acquired.

Dai Coomer said it's going to be hard to move away from the old house.

He is also concerned because their new landlord won't let Bullet, the family's dog, live in the new house. He said he doesn't trust anyone else with the pit bull because he thinks someone would misinterpret his vicious behavior as playful and get bit. He's also concerned someone would use the dog to breed fighters.

He said the stay in the hotel affected the way he and his family slept.

"I'm used to waking up at 6 a.m. to the bells ringing at St. Mary's," Coomer said. "I don't have that here."

He said he'll be able to overcome the pain of leaving the old house, because he's grateful for many of the things they still have. One of these things is his family.

"I have a great wife," he said. "She's real cool."

The couple has been married for 16 years.

His children are his best friends, he said.

Coomer never went to college but his two oldest children have attended. One is an international business graduate from St. Louis University and the other is attending Southeast Missouri University and plans on entering a medical program when she graduates.

Moving out of the house may be tough for Coomer and his family, but he said he thinks he can make a house feel like home again.

At their William Street house, Coomer had arranged the shed behind the house so he could watch movies with his children. He said he plans to set up another entertainment center in the basement of the house they plan on renting.

"I'm not scared," said son Alec Coomer, 12. "It doesn't bother me. I've got a lot of faith in my dad."

"I just thank God I have my family," Betty Coomer said. "We can do anything as long as we are close together. We can all be happy again."

adohogne@semissourian.com

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