MALDEN, Wash. - Many people have said 2020 has been one blow after another, and one local family knows that all too well. Soon after losing everything in the Babb Road Fire in eastern Washington, all seven family members tested positive for COVID-19. Now they’re trying to pick up the pieces, while also battling the virus.
“It was really windy that day, when we were leaving Matthew made a comment, ‘I hope there’s not a fire today because they would not be able to stop it with how this wind is,’” said Jessica Graham.
It was Labor Day when her husband, Matthew Graham, had a premonition of sorts, as he, his wife, and their five children drove to his brother’s home. Before the end of the afternoon, there was a fire and it was ravenous.
“It’s just surreal, like being in a bad dream and you’re like, this can’t be real,” said Jessica.
In the end, the fire destroyed most of their small town of Malden. Their home, barn and everything owned aside from the clothing on their backs was charred rubble.
“I was more in shock than I would have imagined, I felt numb a lot for the first few days,” said Jessica.
Telling their five children that their home as they knew it was gone was gut-wrenching, especially as they watched one of their daughters have a particularly hard time with processing the news.
“How does a homebody deal with not having home anymore? That has probably been the hardest thing thus far, just seeing my kid in that much pain and not being able to do anything about it really,” said Matthew.
At this point, things seemed bleak, but they were about to get worse.
“Before our house burnt down we were being really cautious about not being in groups of people and always having the kids in face masks and keeping our distance from everyone,” said Matthew.
But after losing everything, they needed a place to stay. And then there was the emotional comfort they desperately needed.
“I feel like you really just crave being around other people because that’s really all you have left at that point you’ve lost everything,” said Jessica.
So they let their guard down a bit and spent time with family immediately after the fire. Not long after, Matthew started to feel sick. Initially, they thought it was from the heavy smoke, but when it cleared, his symptoms did not.
“The nurse asked me if there were a bunch of us all with the same last name who got tested and I told her yes and she said they’re all positive," said Mathew.
All seven family members ended up testing positive for the virus. Fortunately, the kids had mild symptoms, but for Matthew and Jessica, it was a different story.
“It’s just like hitting a brick wall with this overwhelming exhaustion,” said Jessica.
“I’m not feeling that great right now but I can sit up all day which is a huge improvement because before I couldn’t hold my head up for that long because I was just so exhausted,” said Matthew.
As the family enters week two of quarantine packed tightly in a hotel room, they can’t help but think of the expression when it rains it pours.
“I’m not sure if it’s going to get any worse. At this point, really nothing would surprise me,” said Matthew.
They said it’s certainly been the hardest year of their lives, but they also said the struggle is temporary.
“This will be a year that we look back on and we’ll all probably be vastly stronger people for it," said Matthew.
What’s been lost is nothing compared to what they still have - each other.
“At least for us, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and I’ve explained to the kids they should be grateful because there is a light at the end of the tunnel and we just need to get there and not everybody has a light at the end of their tunnel,” said Matthew.
The Grahams said they feel extremely fortunate that they have fire insurance and they plan to start house hunting as soon as they recover from COVID-19. If you’d like to help them, a gofundme has been created to help them with their grace financial loss.