TAYLOR COUNTY, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – More than 9,000 acres and about 27 Taylor County, Texas homes have been destroyed by the Mesquite Heat wildfire. No one is immune from the devastation the fires bring.
It was Tuesday evening when Doctor Pearl Merritt heard loud knocking on her door, greeted by Sheriff Ricky Bishop and his team, who were working to evacuate homes in Hidden Valley.
“They were saying ‘get out, get out, get out now,’ and we didn’t have but a few minutes,” Dr. Merritt said.
Within five minutes, Merritt and her family, their six dogs and one bag of clothes were out the door as flames from the Mesquite Heat fire roared through the hills, coming down on their small West Texas neighborhood.
Fire victim and evacuee, Dr. Merritt, described the heat as ‘overwhelming,’ having ash fall down like snow as soon as they left their front porch. Looking through the rearview mirror, she said she saw flames and everything they had to leave behind. It was a moment she called ‘unimaginable.’
Dr. Merritt, the Regional Dean of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Nursing in Abilene, lost everything; her home, her clothes, every family heirloom and picture was gone- taken captive by 50-foot tall flames.
Packed in their bag, was her husband’s medication, one change of clothes for each of them and one irreplaceable family gift.
“I grabbed my mother’s Bible, which was the most important thing to me,” Dr. Merritt said. “I was just standing in my bedroom and my Bible was sitting on the chair. I just grabbed it and thought, ‘mother is up there thinking about us and praying for us,’ and I felt strong.“
A red leather Holy Bible with gold foil writing on the cover and the edges of each page, with a torn spine. Each page had her mother’s writing in it, her notes she took from her scripture readings, as well as a green cross bookmark hanging out the top.
“I knew that all of our pictures and all of the mementos, and everything I saved for years and years was going to be gone,” Merritt said through tears. “But as long as I got that Bible, I was good.”
It was a gift from her father to her mother, but was given to Merritt when her mother passed a year and a half ago. Now, it is her faith and that little red, beat-up Bible that has become her strength in the midst of an unthinkable, unexpected tragedy.
An heirloom that, Dr. Merritt said, will be passed down to her daughter and granddaughters, as a reminder of the strength of their faith and how they were able to overcome terrible adversity.
“We’ll always think of mother and know she was looking down and praying for us, too, and had the angels surrounding us,” Dr. Merritt said.
Dr. Merritt said it’s her faith that keeps her believing miracles can and do happen, even when it seems they have hit rock bottom. That was when she got the news.
“The sheriff said, ‘you’re not going to believe this,'” Dr. Merritt illustrated.
Having not seen her home, but only a video of the ash-covered rubble that was left, she learned that one building remained unscathed by flames.
It was the 550 square foot tiny home the family had bought for her granddaughter, who was expected to attend Abilene Christian University. Aside from a melted air conditioning unit, the home was unscathed and completely livable, surrounded by the rubble of what was their former home.
Dr. Merritt went to the View Volunteer Fire Department to speak with Sheriff Ricky Bishop, to thank him and his team for their service and assistance in evacuating her area. She said that had they not been there, they would not have lived through the flames.