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Monster slayers: Family thankful through tragedy today

Lauren Wood / The Natchez Democrat — L’Kaylah Harris, 6, alerted her father, Victor, when a fire started in her room on Nov. 16. Victor was able to get the rest of his family, including wife Keila, and children Ja’Vae, 8, from left, Za’Niya, 5, and Kammron, 9, out of the house safely. The Harris family lost everything in the blaze, but is happy to be alive and together. Below, one of the Harris children’s reading textbooks lies charred on the front porch of their house.

The monster that invaded the bedroom of 6-year-old L’Kaylah Harris last week aimed to ruin the holidays for a family of six.

But when the Harris family gathers for good food at their temporary home today, they’ll scooch up to the table with an entirely new sense of thanksgiving, especially for L’Kaylah and her instincts.

The young girl awoke at approximately 1:45 a.m. Friday because she thought a monster was trying to get her.

“It was a fire monster,” L’Kaylah said.

She was right, and the family’s house on Zoa Street in Natchez was, eventually, destroyed by fire.

But before the flames and smoke got too bad, L’Kaylah woke up her father, Victor.

Victor acted quickly, waking up his wife, Keila Harris, and their other children Kammron, 9, Ja’Vae, 8, and Za’Niya, 5. The family, Keila said, ran outside wearing nothing but their pajamas.

As she stood watching her family’s house burn, Keila said, she was grateful she and her family survived.

“Even with losing everything, we are beyond blessed,” she said. “I don’t know what we would have done if we hadn’t got everyone out.”

The fact that everyone made it out, Keila said, is because of L’Kaylah.

“She is our hero,” Keila said. “If she had woken up just two minutes later, the kids wouldn’t have been able to get out of the bed, and we wouldn’t have been able to make it out the front door.”

Keila said her daughter was brave and smart for thinking to wake up her father. L’Kaylah said she knew she had to wake her daddy.

“I was scared, but it’s OK now,” she said.

The Harris family will be celebrating Thanksgiving today at Victor’s mother’s house, where they are staying until they can get back on their feet.

The family had lived in their house on Zoa Street since March 2011 but had been renovating the house, which Victor’s mother gave them, since 2003.

“Every year we would put so many thousands of dollars into it to get it fixed up,” Keila said. “We were planning on finishing it this spring but now we won’t be able to.”

LAUREN WOOD / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — The Harris family, including Victor and Keila and their children Kammron, 9, from left, Za’Niya, 5, L’Kaylah, 6, and Ja’Vae, 8, are still smiling because they are all together and “beyond blessed,” despite losing their house to a fire last week.

An account will be set up for the family at UMB in Keila’s name sometime in the near future.

Anyone wishing to donate clothes, money or other items for the family can contact Keila at 601-334-3656 or drop the donations off at 604 S. Wall St., where the family is staying.

Natchez Fire Marshal Aaron Wesley said last week that an electric heater started the fire.