On September 20, at approximately 11:00 AM, the Herscher home of Craig and Darthy Bisaillon, and their four children burned. Although the house was a total loss, no one was home and there were no injuries.
Craig, a fourth-grade teacher at Herscher Intermediate School, and Darthy, a counselor at the Herscher High School, were both at work when they were notified of the blaze.
The choreography of what happened next was amazing, and probably unique to living in a small town like Herscher.
The community quickly responded to the needs of the family, beginning with School Safety Officer Sara Meister driving Darthy to the burning home. Meanwhile, Police Chief, Chad Scanlon, had kicked in the garage door of the home in order to retrieve the RV keys so that the vehicle could be immediately moved from the driveway to facilitate putting out the fire.
Scanlon, along with Mike Mosier, a former firefighter, then proceeded to the fire station to begin moving trucks to the blaze so that when the volunteer firefighters arrived, precious time wouldn’t be lost retrieving the trucks.
Pastor Eric Brown, of Trinity Lutheran Church, arrived at the scene almost immediately, as well.
A Herscher High School counselor and Limestone Middle School teachers, all friends of the family, were asked to break the news to the older children.
Lisa Scanlon, Craig Bisaillon’s sister, retrieved the younger children from school, as well as her own, to bring them back to Herscher.
The fire was out in a little less than an hour, and the family was allowed to survey the damage later in the afternoon.
While the adult Bisaillons were worried about what to do next, the Bisaillon children were content to be at their cousins’ home. “The kids ended up having a pool party at Lisa and Kory’s (Scanlon’s) house,” states Darthy. “They knew their house was gone, but it was a seamless transition for them.”
Coincidentally, that same day was Kory Scanlon’s birthday. Birthday plans were already in place. So, the displaced family, along with close friends from the community, gathered at the Scanlons’ home to celebrate his birthday as well as to comfort the couple and help them decide what to do next.
What came next was an invitation for the family of six to move into the basement of the Scanlons, a family of five.
Lisa recalls, “We went from a family of five to a family of eleven overnight. There was no question in my mind. I said you’re staying with us, and you will stay with us as long as you need to. My house is set up perfectly. There are bedrooms, a living room, as well as a kitchen area in the basement with a separate entrance.”
Because two of the Bisaillon children are the same ages and genders as two of the Scanlons, they are able to share bedrooms. They were even sharing clothes the first few days after the fire. The Scanlon children, thanks to Grandma Linda (Bisaillon), even have some of the same toys as the Bisaillons.
Lisa stresses, “We have always been close and our kids felt the loss of that house. It was their home, too. Some of their belongings were there, too. To see the kids adapt so quickly and lovingly to sharing their toys and space, it has been amazing. This has been a change for all the children. They are all more appreciative and more giving.”
It will be at least September of 2020 before the family will be in a new place.
Darthy shares, “I think living together has gone perfectly fine. You have to have patience with each other. We already know each other’s routines. Lisa usually does her laundry on Thursdays, so I try to do mine on the weekends.” Lisa retorts with a smile, “I typically do my laundry on Mondays.”
“It’s been three months now, and it’s going great!” continues Lisa. “Dinners are fine. When we are all there, we all eat together.”
But, with seven active children between them, there aren’t many evenings when they are all together. “Many times, we don’t even see each other.” Lisa remarks.
In regard to the help that the family has received from the Herscher community, Darthy expresses, “Craig and I are very humbled by all of this. Fifteen years ago, I started working here and I knew Herscher was a special place to be. Knowing how much people care and how they support each other, especially in bad times, it’s super humbling to be on the other side of that.”
Darthy concludes, “This community has been so helpful. Generous donations began pouring in as early as the first evening. So many people have brought gift cards, money, food, clothes, and everything we need. The lessons that my kids get from all of this, you can’t read that in a book. You have to live it. They will be forever changed and I think it will make them stronger.”
Lisa agrees, “There is nothing better than living in a small town like Herscher.”