CLARKSVILLE, IN (WAVE) - Kindergartner Tat'yana Hughes survived the house fire that killed her brother and two sisters. She spent two months undergoing treatment for burns and smoke and her healing has laid emotional scars bare. But now, she's home.
Friday, 5-year-old Tat'yana plopped out of a SUV at her great-great aunt's house, a pink-clad princess from head to toe; her overcoat patterned in stars. Fitting, for the young lady her family calls its Surviving Angel.
"She's very strong," her aunt, Jennifer Gaskin, said Friday evening.
"She was only in rehab for like two weeks," her mother, Theresa Hughes said. "But she was doing rehab for like four times a day. She was ready."
Facing a more than two hours drive home, she had made her intentions clear.
"Zoom Mama, zoom," Hughes said. "Go Mama, go Mama, go Mama, go."
The trip had been delayed for days.
"When they came and told me, I was just like ‘no'", Hughes said. "And I just had a little breakdown for like an hour."
"She (Hughes) was afraid of letting Tat'yana down," Marie Clark, the little girl's grandmother said. "But Tat'yana made both of us stronger. She doesn't complain. But the itching,while the burns are healing? They even told her at the hospital that they will drive her crazy."
So Tat'yana's getting special care. And her mother is getting extra training.
"If I need help with the dressing changes," Hughes said. "And with her sores and her wounds, to make sure she gets all the protein she needs for her to heal well."
But the more her burns heal, the more the emotional scars bare.
"In the hospital, she never wanted her bedroom door closed. She would cry out," Clark said.
The fire at a relative's New Albany home took the lives of Tat'yana's brother Tyrese, and her sisters Trinity and Tai'zah.
"She misses them," Clark said. "Even though we told her they're in Heaven, she saw them in the fire. She remembers more than initially they told us she would remember."
Police allege Cody Cashion, 18, shot a flare into the home to start the fire intentionally. He faces three counts of murder and arson. Three more teenagers face charges as accomplices.
Tat'yana's family is determined to fill her life with better memories. The spoiling began on Friday's trip home.
"McDonald's," Tat'yana said, to laughter from those hanging on her every word.
A query as to whether she'd gotten a Happy Meal yielded a large grin and larger laughter. She likes her cheeseburgers. She also is a fan of the children's cartoon character Dora the Explorer, and of Disney World. Dora graced the welcome home banner hanging from her Great-Great Aunt's porch. Others are raising money to make her Disney dream possible.
Saturday, New Albany honors Tat'yana with a parade, beginning at 10 a.m. at the public library. Tat'yana will have an opportunity to thank the firefighter who pulled her and her mother from the flames.
"I just want to hug him," Clark said. "I have so, so many words for him."
Just take care of her, that's all," Gaskin said. "That's the precaution we're gonna take. Just take care of her."
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