O n December 1st 1984. I was 10 years old. It was an early Saturday morning when I woke up to a burning house and the cries of my 72 year old great grandmother Olivia. I was literally on fire. I could feel myself burning”. It was very dark and I was choking from the thick smoke. The smoke and heat were burning my eyes, so I closed them very tightly.
Brokenhearted, I knew I had to fight for my own life.
I rose up in the bed. I’m on my knees facing her, our hands lock around each other’s arms. She starts to pull away from me and tells me to get out. I tried to hold on to her. I wanted to take her with me. She continued to pull away and tell me to get out as she’s coughing and struggling to breathe. I hear her last cough. Brokenhearted, I knew I had to fight for my own life. I knew that the window was behind me, so I turned around and headed that way. I shut my eyes.
Even though my eyes were closed very tight, I saw a very bright light. It was so bright that when I dared to open my eyes, it was as blinding as the darkness. It made me close my eyes even tighter. I had to feel for the curtains and blinds. I struggled with the windows. The windows would not budge. I could not get out. I thought to myself I’m going to die. These were winding windows. A winder was usually turned to open and close them. Since they didn’t close completely, a nail was placed just under the window and bent to a ninety degree angle, so it could be twisted down to open the window and up to keep it closed.
I can see the skin falling from my arms.
The next thing I remember was waking up on the ground outside the house in a fetal position as a very bright light faded away from me. I don’t remember jumping. I got up and ran next door to my cousin’s house. As I’m banging on the door, I can see the skin falling from my arms. No one woke up so I continue to run down to my Grandmother Naomi’s house. She woke up and when she came to the door she screamed as she looked at me. She asked what happened. I told her, “Grandma is in the house burning up”! She yells and screams for everyone else to wake up.
I’m standing there shivering. I think it was my nerves that had me shivering. Even though it was winter, I don’t remember being cold at that moment. My gown had burned off and I only had on some underwear. My grandmother Naomi goes to grab a sheet to throw it over me, someone yells, “no mama it might stick”! So she doesn’t cover me. They ran down to the burning house. I followed and as we’re on our way we heard a very loud noise. Someone says, “I hear glass breaking”! It was the windows. My grandmother Naomi ran to open the front door, but it was locked. She asked me, “How did you get out”? I said, “The window, I woke up on the ground”. She then said, “But the windows are nailed shut and the glass just blew out”. In my mind I remembered the bright light, but I didn’t say anything about it.
the actual burning was only a few minutes, but the treatment took many years
I was told to go into my cousin’s house and wait for the ambulance. I’m crying and wanting the ambulance to hurry up. I was thinking to myself if they just get here they can make this better. Little did I know that when they got there the pain was just beginning. It seems to me that the treatment of burn is worse than the actual fire! I say this, because the actual burning was only a few minutes, but the treatment took many years. When they arrived, they start to pour saline solution over me. It was cold, but at the same time it was stinging my raw flesh. I plead with them to stop, but they tell me they have to stop me from burning. My flesh was still sizzling even though I had been out of the burning house for several minutes. The ambulance took me to the old Winn Dixie parking lot. It is now Kingsland First Baptist Church.
I inhaled so much smoke that it was a miracle that I lived.
I was taken by helicopter to University Hospital which is today called U F and Shand’s. The smoke was so hot that I received thermal and chemical damage to my respiratory system. (But I’m lying here today breathing normally, even though at that time every breath I took, I smelled and tasted smoke/soot for weeks) I inhaled so much smoke that it was a miracle that I lived. A tube was pushed down my throat. I could hear the air and suction noises. I was so afraid from so much going on at one time. I thought I was going to die from this procedure. I felt as if I was choking all over again. At the same time my body is being cleaned of soot, dirt and burned skin by pouring of more saline solution, wiping with gauze and tweezing with surgical tweezers. I’m fully alert as I see them removing my skin. I’m in excruciating physical pain and mental pain as I lay there thinking about my great grandmother Olivia dying in that burning house. I was getting tired and weak physically and mentally. I was surrounded by 10 to 15 doctors and nurses. I wanted to rest, so I close my eyes, but they kept telling me to stay awake as they shake me every so often. I was so very tired…oh my God!
I heard Comments like, “this baby is not going to make it”, “someone call Gainesville”, “Doctor, Gainesville is full,” “well someone call Galveston”, “Galveston has an opening”! I am then told by a doctor, “Sweetie we can’t take care of you here, we’re sending you to Galveston, Texas. They can take care of you out there. I was taken by helicopter to Shriners Hospital for Burned Children in Galveston, Texas.
I still don’t fully understand, perhaps I will never know. I do know it was of God!
That was over thirty years ago, but it has a lot to do with who I am today. I’ve experienced miracles. I also had a vision that I rarely shared until now. I’ve tried to put it behind me, because it scared me then and I always became overwhelmed when trying to figure out who, why and what it was. I still don’t fully understand, perhaps I will never know. I do know it was of God! Sometimes when I’m alone I can feel the same presence I felt that day, but I never saw it again. I am one of God’s miracle. I believe I surrendered to Jesus and He sent me back. This is my testimony and God will get the Glory from it.
I’ve been running for my life from the day I opened my eyes to burning darkness and then to the bright light. Today I’m a wife and mother of eight. I gave birth to six. I give God all the praises, because if it had not been for Him and His trust in me to go through and still love Him, I wouldn’t be giving this testimony. Life can be hard, but we must keep our faith and live for Jesus and look forward to opening our eyes to heaven, for that is the greatest reward. Don’t grow weary in well doing and one day you will hear, “well done thy good and faithful servant!” Please pray for my strength in the Lord. I love you all…
My name is Tonia Glover-Timmons.
(I’m writing a book and the full details of the burn recovery and the vision will be in it.)