By PHIL ATTINGER
SEBRING — Greg Jones and Holly Fonder hadn’t had much luck with Sept. 11, until this year.
“I’m going to cry,” Fonder said as she gave her testimony to a group of Sebring firefighters who had come out to put up walls at a Habitat for Humanity home, next door to where she will soon live in her own Habitat home.
She recalled immense sadness on Sept. 11, 2001, and a feeling of helplessness.
“I never thought, so many years later, on Sept. 11, we’d be hit by (Hurricane) Irma,” Fonder said. “We came back to a loss. We lost everything.”
However, through a friend, she and Jones spoke to people at Habitat for Humanity of Highlands County, which had forged partnerships to help local residents rebuild after the storm.
Two weeks ago, when she saw their future home site, it hit her, Fonder said: She will now have a home.
“I never thought I’d be able to purchase a brand new home,” Fonder said.
She felt blessed, she said, to be able to walk away from a storm with her loved ones, and eventually recover from all the loss.
The five Sebring firefighters who volunteered to help on Wednesday, the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, took comfort at being able to do something constructive with the day.
“They asked for help,” Firefighter Tim Harper said of Habitat. “We’re out together and nobody’s hurt. It’s not an emergency.”
Other firefighters there included Fire Chief Robert Border, Deputy Fire Chief Dirk Riley, Fire Capt. Chad Marley and Senior Engineer Rachel Smit.
“This is a good way to give back to the community,” Riley said.
They raised two of the four walls of Lot 16 in Mason’s Ridge — 1389 Inspiration Drive — which is right next door to the Jones/Fonder home site and is one of three homes Habitat has in progress in Mason’s ridge right now.
Another two homes, recently completed for Irma victims, were to get dedicated last week. Those events were postponed by the threat of Hurricane Dorian.
For Fonder, it was a blessing to know people like the firefighters would help her and Jones rebuild.
“Thank you over and over again for coming out,” she told them.