ST. PETERSBURG ó The day after a fire claimed most of Jahmeshia Jacksonís possessions, the 27-year-old mother returned to the house she and her sons had escaped, trying to salvage what she could. She hoped her washer and dryer still worked. But most everything else inside the soot-stained walls were gone: their bed, their furniture, their clothes, even her cousinís car.
But she still has the one possession that matters most to her: the ashes of her 8-month-old daughter, Dorianna Roberts, who Jackson said died in her sleep a year ago.
"I did get my babyís ashes," she said. "Thatís what matters."
The fire was reported at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. During the fire, Jackson said she asked firefighters to rescue her daughterís urn.
"The fireman went in," she said. "I told him I had my babyís ashes in the living room. There was fire, but he still went in there and got my babyís ashes during the fire."
Her daughter died Dec. 18, 2016. The fire took place just eight days from the one-year anniversary of her death. Now her urn sits in the safest place the mother can think of right now, her car.
Jackson recounted her familyís ordeal on Monday while a skillet of untouched cornbread lay on the kitchen table. The pork chops, turkey wings, okra and rice she was cooking for dinner were still on the kitchen stove.
The mother said she was cooking dinner for her two boys, ages 4 and 8, when the fire broke out in their 1,000-square foot, two-bedroom home. She had turned on the space heater in their room, then put a movie on for them to watch in the living room while she cooked.
A half-hour later, she smelled smoke, then saw it billowing from her kidsí room. By then it was too late.
"I kicked the room door open," she said. "Everything was burnt up in the room. The front window was busting out."
She rescued her children and called 911. She tried to go back inside to rescue her belongings: "But I couldnít grab nothing. The fire came so quick."
St. Petersburg Fire Rescue Lt. Steven Lawrence said the damage was so extensive that investigators couldnít determine the cause of the fire. Jackson thinks it was the space heater given to her by her landlord.
Her brother, Bendricko Jackson, said heís worried his nephews donít fully understand why they canít go back home anymore. Jahmeshia and her sons are staying with her grandmother and brother for now. The Red Cross said itís helping the family.
Jahmeshia Jackson was grateful no one was injured, but still reeling from the fire.
"My kids canít even go to school right now," she said. "They lost everything .?.?. Itís hard to function. I donít know whether Iím going or coming right now.
"I lost all my kidsí Christmas stuff. Everything is a disaster."
Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Divya Kumar at [email protected] Follow @divyadivyadivya.