When he got the call from his 13-year-old daughter Grace saying that their house had been struck by lightning, Bluffton’s Greg Cherewko made it home from the grocery store in three minutes.
“I actually heard the blast from Publix,” Cherewko said of the Wednesday afternoon lightning strike that hit the back section of his home near the master bedroom. “(Grace) felt the blast. She was in the front side of the house and called me immediately.”
The bolt hit their home on Crossings Boulevard around 6:30 p.m. near the window of the master bedroom. The strike left a trail from where it hit to the house in the form of a shallow ditch in the ground.
As the smoke alarms went off, Grace left the house with the family’s two dogs, Jase and Pappy. A neighbor took all three to safety at his home until Greg arrived, along with the Bluffton Township Fire District. No one was injured.
On Friday, two days after the blaze, Greg marveled at a series of decisions that, had they been made another way, might have led to a different outcome.
Greg said that 10 minutes prior to leaving for the grocery store, he sat in a chair in the portion of the house that was struck by lighting.
He asked his daughter to come with him to the grocery store and she declined.
Had she come, both dogs would have been trapped in the master bedroom, which the fire destroyed.
“They are crated pets, so had my daughter gone with me, it would be a different story,” Greg Cherewko said.
Greg stood outside his home Friday morning as appraisers inspected the inside. He chooses, he said, to focus on the good and not the bad and expressed his gratitude to a community that has responded with so much help.
Two of the family’s three daughters lost many school supplies in the fire. His middle child was packed and ready to start at Coastal Carolina University on Wednesday. Her items for college were damaged by smoke and water.
On the morning of the fire, Greg said he and Grace had made sure all of her uniforms were ready to go for her start next week as a 7th grader at H.E. McCracken Middle School.
Greg said several people have reached out to help in the days following the fire, including Lowcountry Community Church and Church of the Cross.
“I’m not surprised by the love that the people in Bluffton show,” he said. “I hate that they have to do it again, but they have before.”
The tragedy is not the first experienced by the family, who lost their wife and mother, Laura Cherewko, to cancer in June 2016.
“I would rather stress the good than the bad,” Greg said. “We are blessed to be surrounded by such caring people.”
A GoFundMe page has been created to assist the Cherewko family. As of Friday afternoon, the page had raised more than $8,000 of its $10,000 goal.