LOUISVILLE, Colo. (KDVR) – It’s been nearly a month since the Marshall Fire ripped through Boulder County, destroying homes and leaving many renters, landlords and landlords with nothing. Families are still reeling from the impact, including a single mother of three, forced to live in a hotel with her children.
Her story is just one of many heartbreaking stories that stem from the devastation. Julianne McKay and her children, one of whom has special needs, must throw away all their possessions and restart, for now calling the Drury Inn & Suites home.
“Say hi. Ezekiel. Hey mate, come over here and sit with me,” McKay said playfully as he sat on a hotel couch.
It’s the new normal for McKay and his family. The mother tries to reconcile everything. She is a part-time student and works full-time, while homeschooling and raising 11-year-old Troy and 9-year-old twins Ginger and Ezekiel.
As she juggled all of her responsibilities, the Marshall Fire suddenly went off.
“It was just windy and smoky. I could barely breathe,” McKay said. “We grabbed a few bags and threw them in the car. Her (daughter’s) nose was bleeding so much because it was extremely dry and we got in the car and just took off.
The McKay family was forced out of their Louisville townhouse and into a cramped hotel room with no kitchen, no privacy, no room for the kids to play and nowhere to call home.
“It’s been hard for me to do it all,” McKay cried. “But I continue.”
The single mother continues to go through the motions every day, but not without tears and increasing stress. Although her rental home is still standing, it is covered in ash, soot and debris.
McKay’s son, Ezekiel, is autistic and has serious health issues, including a kidney. He is also immunocompromised, which is why McKay began homeschooling his children during the COVID pandemic. For this reason, collecting their belongings or returning home is not an option at this time.
“It’s carcinogenic and toxic,” McKay explained. “I can’t have him around and put him in danger. He has breathing difficulties. He sucks in liquid, so his lungs are inflamed. Bringing all this smoke to him is difficult.
Mckay said his son had been out of his routine for nearly a month and was struggling because of it. She said children with autism like structure and routine. McKay also shared that she couldn’t take her kids home because of the ashes and was spending hundreds a week at daycare trying to cope with insurance and more, not to mention driving. frequents the Westminster Hotel in Louisville. She added that she remained strong for her children, but had reached a breaking point and felt lonely and overwhelmed.
“I don’t have the strength to fight the insurance people,” McKay cried. “I have so much on my plate. I was struggling before this happened and to add this on top of that – I have no fight left in me to fight these people. I’m exhausted .”
The family has set up a GoFundMe to help with rising expenses.
Despite the exhaustion, McKay takes comfort in having her children by her side and continues each day. McKay’s 11-year-old son, Troy, said he helps his mother and every day they recite a quote he learned in school from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl, but by all means keep going,” Troy recited.
McKay said she and her children will be living at the hotel for the foreseeable future until their house can be cleaned. She added that she was still paying rent on her house and was waiting for the HOA to clear her house for cleaning, but had not been given a specific time frame.
Even then, she does not know if they will return due to her son’s health. McKay said it all depends on the air quality of the house if they return.
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