GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A single mother is scrambling to recover from a devastating fire after her 24th Street home burst into flames Thursday night.
"It don't feel like home no more. It's all gone," said Tawaii McWilliams as she stared at the burnt shell of her home three days before Christmas. "It's like somebody set a bomb in the middle of the house and blew it up. It's that bad."
McWilliams and her five boys moved into the house in July. She worked two jobs to pay the rent and provide for her children, ages 2 to 11. The entire family went to the store Thursday afternoon, only to return 15 minutes later and see their house in flames.
"It was tragic. I didn't know what to do. I don't know to panic, to scream, cry, fall over, I didn't know what to do," McWilliams said.
When asked how he felt about the fire, her oldest son Kemarcus said, "Sad, because I lost everything that was up in there."
Perhaps the most heartbreaking was the moment her 5-year-old Kevin asked one of the Gulfport firefighters if their presents were lost in the fire.
Unfortunately, more than Christmas presents were ruined.
"Like my kids' birth certificates, their clothes, their little ornaments that they had when they were babies. But it can be replaced. My kids are here and we're safe and that's all that matters," said McWilliams.
The family is counting their blessings this holiday season, despite the tragic loss.
Investigators say the fire was started by food left cooking unattended on the stove. Several organizations are trying to help the family with food and toys for Christmas.