COAL VALLEY, Illinois-- Less than 24 hours after a devastating fire, a Coal Valley family says they're still alive today because of the quick thinking of their 12-year-old daughter.
You can tell a lot about a family by the things in their home. Unfortunately for the Graham's, this collection of old movies and pictures is all that's left of theirs.
"It was a really chaotic moment that felt like a couple of seconds," remembers son Gabe Graham, a junior at Moline High School.
Both parents and three kids called this place their home for ten years.
Miraculously though, everyone inside got outside. They're here to tell the story thanks to the youngest family member.
"I'm really thankful for Gwen. I think she was the hero of this situation," says Gabe.
"I started hearing crackling in the roof as if it was hailing. I look out my window, but it's not raining. I start to put things together. This isn't normal. Houses don't do this," thought Gwen on Monday evening.
Gwen was upstairs in her room. The rest of her family was downstairs.
She didn't question her instincts. She ran to get help.
"I'm like Mom, Dad, something's wrong upstairs," says Gwen.
"I was totally unaware anything was going on. I was playing video games in the basement," says Gabe.
After Gwen alerted her parents, everyone got out within a matter of minutes.
"It only took ten minutes for my whole room to be engulfed in flames, everything to be gone," says Gwen.
Now the fire is a memory burnt in deep.
"The house could have fallen in on us too, if she didn't say anything," says Gabe.
It's a memory this quick thinking 12-year-old hopes others never forget.
"You should never ignore that. You should always tell a parent that you don't feel something's right," says Gwen.
Just from what's left, you can tell a lot about this family. The fire in the past will not tear apart their future.
"I'm hoping we can continue that loving, welcoming house we always had. That way, we can keep those memories alive," says Gabe.
The Graham family has three kids all going back to school within the next few weeks. Gwen will be in seventh grade at Moline, Gabe will be a junior, and their oldest son will be a sophomore at the University of Illinois. If anyone wants to donate anything, the family is asking for school supplies.