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Running for their lives: One family's story

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Photo by KXAN Courtesy of KXAN News
Austin Photo Set: News_Shelley Seale_Texas fires_what can you do to help_August 2011_road fire
Photo by Cecilia Roberts Courtesy of KXAN
Austin Photo Set: News_Shelley Seale_Texas fires_what can you do to help_August 2011_smoke fire
Photo by Aaron Bennett Courtesy of KXAN
Austin Photo Set: News_Shelley Seale_Texas fires_what can you do to help_August 2011_burned house
Photo by Russell L. Minton Courtesy of KXAN
Austin Photo Set: News_Shelley Seale_Texas fires_what can you do to help_August 2011_bastrop sign fire
Austin Photo Set: News_Shelley Seale_Texas fires_what can you do to help_August 2011_road fire
Austin Photo Set: News_Shelley Seale_Texas fires_what can you do to help_August 2011_smoke fire
Austin Photo Set: News_Shelley Seale_Texas fires_what can you do to help_August 2011_burned house

Priscilla and Clark Knopik, who live in the Circle D subdivision in Bastrop, fled the dream home they custom-built just over a year ago.  Amidst the sirens and chaos Sunday night, the Knopiks were able to evacuate with their two children, but they could not catch their two cats, who were terrified and ran hiding.  Within two hours, the family was facing the loss of their house and possibly their beloved pets.

 "I can handle this, things can be replaced, but lives can't. I have my boys and my dog and Luke is watching over us...that's all I need." 
In the raging Central Texas wildfires of the past two days, thousands of families received 10 minutes notice and needed to choose what they would take and what would be left.  Sadly, much is left behind, and lost.

"It all happened in a matter of minutes across the highway from our house," Priscilla said. Her daughter Elexa ran to the neighbor's house and woke them up from a nap, to tell them to evacuate. "She is my hero," Priscilla said. "We were not able to get our cats out on time. Our lives are saved and that's all that matters. We can replace material, but not our lives."

Janet Pollok and her sons evacuated their home Sunday night. They live in the Tahitian Village neighborhood across Highway 95.  In the few minutes that Janet had to leave, she ran through the house trying to collect photographs and memorabilia of Luke, her 10-year-old son who passed away two years ago from a rare pediatric cancer, in a story just covered by CultureMap. "I dug through everything trying to make sure I have all of what is left of Luke," Janet said. She spent the rest of the night listening to the police scanner and news reports — and watching the orange glow burn up the sky under billowing clouds of black smoke.

"All I could think about was if I do lose the house and everything in it, it's nothing compared to losing my son," Janet said. "I can handle this, things can be replaced, but lives can't. I have my boys and my dog and Luke is watching over us...that's all I need."

"I ran into total strangers today that had just found out they lost their houses," Janet said on Monday. "They were just bawling. It's absolutely heartwrenching." She says the worst part is not knowing what has happened to her home.

Right now, the Knopiks are just trying to stay strong. Monday night they received information that their house was still standing to some extent, but still have no knowledge of the damage or their cats. "Our family and friends are helping us get through this," Priscilla added, and urges people to keep all those who evacuated in their prayers.

How would you react if you had only 10 minutes to evacuate your home? What would you save in those few precious moments?

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