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Sisters displaced after fire destroys home on Carter's Ferry Road

A Thursday night house fire at 2108 Carter’s Ferry Road in Marshall has left a family of two displaced.

Fortunately, no one was home as the occupants — two sisters — were away on a cruise.

“We know it started in the back room where the laundry room was,” City Fire Marshal Joey Dunagan said while assessing the damage Friday.

“We’re just sifting through, seeing what we can find,” he said.

Dunagan said the fire department was alerted of the fire at 9:21 p.m. The fire was called in by a passerby who saw the flames billowing from the dead-end street while driving on Loop 390.

“There are no houses next door,” Dunagan said. “When the fire crew got here it was fully involved, but luckily nobody was here.

“That’s the blessing out of it,” the fire marshal said of the home being vacant, at the time.

The occupants, siblings Brenda Dillard and Jennifer Brazzell, had been on a family cruise since Monday when the fire broke out Thursday.

“That’s my mom and dad’s house,” Dillard told the News Messenger in a telephone interview Friday after making it back on land.

“That’s the family home,” Dillard said, sharing she’s been living in it since moving back from Washington in 2012 to help take care of her mother.

She said their mother passed away in 2017, but the two sisters continued to stay as caretakers of the property.

The house has been in the family for decades and was built by their ancestors on land that sits atop of a hill. It’s the host site for all family gatherings.

“That’s a historical site on the hill,” Dillard said of the area on Carter’s Ferry. “Everybody goes to ‘the hill’ for whatever. They always had burger sales up there.

“That’s the ‘Hill Top,’” Dillard said the homestead is affectionately called.

“Now everything is gone — pictures, documents — everything,” she said.

Dillard said they had made it to Houston from the cruise Thursday night when they received news about the fire. Her nephew had checked on the home for them that morning and everything was fine.

“We’d been gone since Monday. All we have is what’s in our luggage,” she said, sharing how devastated they are to return home homeless.

“It’s crazy. It doesn’t seem like it’s real, but it’s real,” said Dillard.

Donations of clothes and other helpful items for Dillard and Brazzell will be accepted at their brother-in-law’s business, Rodgers Service Station at 1107 Carters Ferry Road; Soul Palace at 612 S. Carter St.; and at Brazzell’s daughter’s residence at 706 Whetstone.

Dillard wears an extra large in shirts, a size 16 in pants and size 9 in shoes. Brazzell wears a size 3X in shirts, a size 20-22 in pants and size 10 in shoes.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and NRA feud over gun background checks

AUSTIN — Two usual political allies — Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the National Rifle Association — traded rhetorical blows Friday after Patrick continued to advocate for requiring background checks for stranger-to-stranger gun sales.

Calling his support for the background checks a “political gambit,” the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action said in a statement that Patrick’s “‘proposals’ would resurrect the same broken, Bloomberg-funded failures that were attempted under the Obama administration.”

“The NRA remains at the forefront of legitimate efforts to combat crime in our country,” the group wrote. “We encourage Lt. Gov. Patrick to join us in support of the same.”

The statement referenced former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the most prominent gun control advocates in the country.

In Texas, person-to-person sales of firearms do not require background checks, but after two mass shootings in Texas in less than a month — one in El Paso and one in Midland-Odessa — the lieutenant governor has openly supported closing the supposed loophole. President Donald Trump has also endorsed the idea.

The man who fatally shot seven people in West Texas, Seth Aaron Ator, was federally barred from possessing a firearm, ABC News reported. It was later reported that he purchased his weapon in a private person-to-person sale, allowing him to avoid a background check.

In an interview with Fox News last weekend, Patrick said the NRA “needs to get behind” Trump on background checks for stranger-to-stranger gun sales.

And in an extensive interview with The Dallas Morning News on Friday, Patrick called it “common sense” to tighten background check laws because in many instances, buyers in stranger-to-stranger sales aren’t required to be vetted through a federal database before they purchase firearms.

“That gap of stranger to stranger we have to close, in my view,” Patrick told the News. “Look, I’m a solid NRA guy … but not expanding the background check to eliminate the stranger to stranger sale makes no sense to me and ... most folks.”

Over the past few days, both Patrick, who presides over the state Senate, and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen have appointed lawmakers in their chambers to committees on mass violence prevention and community safety.

Both Republicans directed their committees to examine ways to keep firearms out of the hands of felons — and others who would not pass a federal background check — while protecting Second Amendment rights.

Annual 9/11 Community Prayer Service set for Sept. 11 in Marshall

Members of the community will gather with local law enforcement and government officials next week to honor and remember lives lost in the terrorist attacks on the U.S. 18 years ago.

The annual 9/11 Prayer Service will take place at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 11 at Telegraph Park in historic downtown Marshall.

The 30-minute service is hosted by the Harrison County Firefighters Association 9/11 Prayer Service Committee in coordination with the city of Marshall and the various fire and law enforcement departments in Marshall and Harrison County.

It’s purpose is to honor and remember the firefighters, first responders and members of law enforcement, the military and civilians who lost their lives as a result of the attacks on the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001.

“9/11 was a tragic day for the United States, the victims and their families, and all those who work in fire and law enforcement,” said Chris Osborn, captain of the West Harrison Fire Department and president of the Harrison County Firefighters Association. “As we gather again this year, we honor and pay tribute to those who were lost that day and we pledge, with our fellow first responders, our families and community, that we will never ever forget.”

Members of the various fire departments and ESDs in Harrison County, along with the Marshall Fire Department, Harrison County Sheriff’s Office, Marshall Police Department, Waskom Police Department and Hallsville Police Department will be part of the service.

Marshall Fire Chief Reggie Cooper and Marshall Police Chief Cliff Carruth will share brief remarks, with Harrison County Sheriff Tom McCool speaking on behalf of the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office.

Elysian Fields VFD’s fire chief Andy Engdahl will speak on behalf of the men and women of the Harrison County volunteer fire departments. Waskom police chief Westy Meisenheimer will give remarks as well.

The Harrison County Firefighters Association Honor Guard, under the direction of Commander Jeff Hartsell of ESD No. 4 and Lieutenant Commander Bob Muzzy of ESD No. 8, will post the colors at the ceremony.

Members of the new Harleton High School fire academy — Karson Evans, Tyler Oregero and Clay Floyd — will lead the Pledge of Allegiance.

Jim McCutchens, president of the Harrison County NAACP Branch No. 6185, will give the invocation and will play “Amazing Grace” on his harmonica in the concluding moments of the ceremony.

Dr. Doug Lockard, music professor and band director at East Texas Baptist University, will perform “Taps.”

The various departments will bring vehicles representing their departments, with Marshall Fire Department and West Harrison Fire Department providing ladder trucks for the traditional display of the American flag.

“The annual 9/11 prayer service gives us an opportunity, as a community, to come together to thank our firefighters, first responders and members of law enforcement in our city, county and country who sacrifice so much by putting their lives on the line every day to keep us safe,” said prayer service committee chairman Christina Anderson. “We’re profoundly grateful for their courage and selfless work, we appreciate the sacrifice of their families and we pray for their ongoing safety on this day and every day.”

Anderson noted that this year’s 9/11 Prayer Service is dedicated to the honor and memory of the extraordinary service of former Harrison County Fire Marshall Denny Engdahl.

Engdahl served as Harrison County Fire Marshal for 20 years, from 1989-2009. He passed away in late July of this year.

The planning committee wishes to thank all participants and those who have helped with the preparation of the prayer service, including the fire and law enforcement departments.

The committee also wishes to thank the city of Marshall for their kind assistance each year with the venue, chairs, sound system, as well as blocking the streets around Telegraph Park.

Also, thanks to Melinda and Richard Gaulden of Meadowbrook Funeral Home for graciously printing the program for the ceremony.

Memorial Stair Climb

The service will end about 9 a.m., just prior to the inaugural 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb, which is being initiated this year by Emergency Service District No. 3.

Local first responders will climb the stairs on the fire escape of the renovated Marshall Grand, ETBU’s newly-opened School of Nursing and the former Hotel Marshall.

As in other communities throughout our nation, the Climb is done in honor and remembrance of the FDNY firefighters and others who bravely climbed the stairs of the Twin Towers in New York to save so many lives on that tragic day in 2001 and who sacrificed their own lives to save others.

Salsa dancing brings the heat to downtown Taco Fest

Festival goers will heat up the street Saturday, Sept. 14, as Century 21-A Select Group and Burris Property Management present the inaugural Salsa Dancing Contest at the 2019 East Taco Fest in downtown Marshall, featuring free lessons from instructor Sal Landeros.

“We’re having this salsa dance-off and I anticipate a lot of people in East Texas saying I don’t know how to salsa, but that’s OK because we’re going to have a salsa dancing class at 4:30 p.m.,” said Gai Bennett, events manager for M. Roberts Media, owner of the Marshall News Messenger. “So we’re going to teach you how to salsa dance and then you get to strut your new skills at the competition.

“So it’s a two for one — you get a free lesson and you get to show your skills off,” she said.

The second annual festival is organized by the Marshall News Messenger and presented by main sponsor, Patterson Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram.

Salsa dancing is the newest activity to join the agenda. Class begins at 4:30 p.m. and the contest kicks off at 6:15 p.m.

“They’re both going to be fun,” said Bennett.

She said organizers are pleased to have Sal Landeros, owner of All About Dance Studio in Tyler, as the instructor.

“He’s a professional ballroom dancer and teaches ballroom dancing for 20 years,” said Bennett.

“It’s going to be a blast,” she said.

Participants should start gathering about 4:15 p.m. for the class. Lessons and participation in the contest are free, but admission into the festival is required.

Tickets for the 2019 East Texas Taco Festival are currently on sale at the website, General admission tickets are $10 for a wrist band. VIP tickets, which include entry to a VIP section, two drink coupons, snacks and hors d’oeuvres are $40. Admission for kids ages 12 and younger is free.