Deja Moss’ face beams with excitement as she talks about spending Thanksgiving with family and the traditional spread that will blanket her grandparents’ table.
“Everyone brings a dish,” said Moss, 17, almost dreamy-eyed as she rattles turkey, ham, collards, macaroni and cheese, yams and more. “It’s going to be nice.”
For Deja, the family feast just might be tastier and more satisfying than ever before, since this year Moss, her sister and mother (and their pregnant Yorkie) survived a fire that robbed them of almost all their possessions and temporarily left them without a home of their own.
The February fire at the Birch Grove Apartments in Decatur was particularly tough for Deja, a Druid Hills High School senior, and her 16-year-old sister Ashley. All their notes, notebooks, textbooks were destroyed in addition to clothing and other personnel possessions.
“When I was outside [watching the fire] my mom, sister and I were crying, ‘Oh my goodness, everything is gone,’” she recalled.
Donna Roberts, Deja’s mother, remembered that during her initial shock and grief a neighbor told her to focus on what survived, not what was lost. Roberts said she realized that what she valued most—her daughters–was spared.
Deja said she has been overwhelmed by the generosity of people who offered clothing, furniture and assistance to help her family get back on their feet. In fact, she said the outpouring made her feel like she had Thanksgiving in February.
“Every day we wear things people gave to us,” said the teen, adding that five other families with children who are students at her school were affected by the fire.
Although it was challenging to study off notes that were not her own, Deja said she finished the spring 2009 semester with a 3.8 grade point average.
“We’ve got a lot to be thankful for,” said Roberts, noting that the tragedy has brought her and her daughters closer.
“Mostly I am thankful for my community, school, church, neighbors, family,” said Deja, pointing out that even teens she considered her foes reached out to help her.
The young woman, who plans to study political science in college and has her sights set on becoming a Georgia senator, said the experience has taught her to keep her chin up and remain optimistic despite life’s downturns.