Reliving the horror of Kawana's black Friday
TEN years ago today, Lynn Blackwood-Troyahn and dozens like her lost not only their jobs but a little bit of their sense of self.
Mrs Blackwood-Troyahn was one of about 100 people who were left out of work when fire tore through four businesses at Kawana.
Mrs Blackwood-Troyahn worked at Spotlight, which was then on the corner of Nicklin Way and Kensington Drive.
Where were you when the Spotlight fire took place?
This poll ended on 24 December 2015.
I was down near the store watching it all.
I couldn't see it/wasn't living on the coast yet.
I was watching the smoke from my house with the windows shut.
This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.
Spotlight and two businesses in the same complex, Rosemores Furniture and electrical retailer Chandlers, were destroyed by the early morning blaze.
Further south along Nicklin Way, at Warana, The Fruit Shed was gutted in a separate fire.
Mrs Blackwood-Troyahn said the fires had been devastating for employees.
"It was so out of left field. We drove down there in the afternoon. In a sense, it made it more real seeing the devastation so we could appreciate what had happened," she said
"It was really devastating. A sense of your self is tied up with your work and your workplace and workmates. It was a huge life event.
"You get up and go to work and suddenly, that's not there anymore."
As the sun rose higher in the sky, news of the devastation spread and hearts sank.
Spotlight employee Debbie Doolan was left wondering how she would pay the mortgage or put all of her intended presents under the Christmas tree with the family's sole income gone.
Mrs Doolan had received a call at 6.30am from a fellow worker to say the store had burnt down.
One by one, the shattered employees gathered across the road from the burnt out remains, trying to come to grips with what had happened.
"We were a family. We all had our own jobs to do," Mrs Doolan said.
"I was in craft at that stage
and the day before, we'd received a shipment of beading.
"I filled up the whole beading wall and it was beautiful and the next day it was gone."
The fires, which started in rubbish bins behind Spotlight and The Fruit Shed, were later found to have been deliberately lit. Three teenagers were charged within 24 hours but only one was eventually found guilty and sentenced to three years' jail, to serve a minimum of 18 months.
Mrs Doolan said the support offered to employees left out of work at the time was nothing short of amazing.
The ANZ Bank at Kawana offered the mother-of-three a grace period with her mortgage.
The Sunshine Coast Daily joined forces with Mix FM and the Bank of Queensland to set up a Quids for Christmas Appeal which raised more than $41,000 to help workers facing hardship.
Spotlight offered positions to staff at its other stores while businesses such as Australia Zoo also offered work.
Mrs Doolan is still moved to tears by the generosity of an anonymous Mooloolah resident who organised for a load of groceries to be delivered to her door.
She was fortunate enough to pick up work at the Zoo where she stayed on for five years, even after Spotlight opened a new store at Kawana Waters.
"The highlight for me was painting the kangaroos' toenails. We had to identify some of the kangaroos with nail polish," she said.
When the Zoo laid off casual workers following two wet summers, Mrs Doolan recommenced work at Spotlight and has been there for the past five years.
Mrs Blackwood-Troyahn, who had been working at the old Spotlight store since before it opened, resumed work with the new store.
She remembers a customer bringing two cakes to the new store on opening day.
"It shows the wonderful community we live in. The community support that we were offered, businesses which offered our team jobs - that's the best thing about living in a place like we do," she said.