Norfolk, Va. - Valerie Yorker and her husband gathered their belongings this morning from the charred hotel. They used a wheelbarrow and a luggage cart to move most of what they owned into the front parking lot.
“It is what it is. Hopefully we'll get this apartment this afternoon. We're praying on that,” says Valerie.
The Yorkers, like a lot of people we've talked to in the past week, lived at the M Star Hotel while they searched for better circumstances. She and her husband don't have much and fortunately, they didn't lose anything important in the fire. She knows others likely lost everything. Anyone who stayed in the most damaged area hasn't been allowed yet to check.
“A lot of people still don't have their stuff,” says Valerie.
That, Valerie says, could have been avoided. Witnesses last week said the fire started and spread for an hour, almost unnoticed, through the attic. A dozen guests told us no alarms sounded.
Others said the hotel staff downplayed the smoky smells until fire broke through the roof. By then, it was time to get out.
Fire investigators charged the owner with not having the alarm system inspected. And they served 20 violations for not having working smoke alarms. No one has yet said how the fire started.
Valerie is expecting more of her hotel neighbors to return to the hotel to gather their belongings when they are finished with work today. She knows some lost everything, but she's grateful no one lost a life.
“I feel blessed,” she says.