JoEllenMyers stood in her living room in disbelief as she looked around at her charred belongings and as an insurance adjuster looked at holes burnt in her roof.
Myers, 73, was sleeping in the bedroom of her Ankeny townhome at about 1:10 a.m. Monday, Dec. 20, when a car crashed through her sliding glass window. Her bedroom was only a few feet from where the sedan came to rest and exploded.
“If it had gone another foot, it would’ve crashed through my wall, too,” Myers said. “I just heard a loud boom and the house shook.”
A spokesperson for the Ankeny Police Department was not available for comment. Myers and her granddaughter Anna Myers said the car was traveling about 100 mph when it crashed into the home. Four or five teenagers were in the car and jumped out, JoEllen Myers said. They suspect the driver was drunk, but are not sure.
“I’m so happy that these young adults, none of them were trapped and hurt, because it went up so fast,” Myers said. “They could’ve perished in it.”
After being awakened, Myers went to her living room and found the car.
“I went back to get my phone and throw some clothes on, and in just that little bit of time, the fire had started,” Myers said. “When I came back around, the flames were already up to the second floor.”
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Myers has been through tragedy before. In 2007, Des Moines Register reporter Reid Forgrave profiled her after Anna Myers’ father, Brent Myers, JoEllen Myers’ youngest son, died by suicide eight months after her oldest son, Michael Myers, killed himself.
At one point, JoEllen Myers was a high-powered Realtor in the Des Moines area. After she lost both of her sons to addiction, she started a nonprofit to be a resource for people who had family members who died by suicide.
Myers is quick to talk to strangers. She moved into her Ankeny home in 2013 and said she loved the development.
Myers lost almost everything in the fire, including keepsakes from both of her sons. Brent Myers loved to paint when he was in college and she still had several of his portraits hanging in her home.
A profile of Albert Einstein in her dining room was among his paintings that burned in the fire. Portraits of Mother Teresa and the Pope survived with only smoke damage.
“How these two made it, we don’t know,” JoEllen Myers said. “These are really special. Anna will inherit them.”
Anna Myers, 18, started a GoFundMe fundraiser to help her grandmother buy new things. Insurance from the car driver will also help her rebuild her home, JoEllen Myers said.
“We didn’t think it would get as popular as it has,” Anna Myers said.
JoEllen Myers said she wants to rebuild her home. She said she’s felt comforted by her neighbors and the small army of detectives, insurance adjusters, friends and family members who’ve helped her since incident.
Myers said she’s thankful for small things, too: Her other granddaughter is also 18 years old and was at work or she would have been downstairs at the time of the crash, she said. Even as so many worry about her own well-being, Myers was worried about the people who hit her home and caused her so much grief.
“I’m just thankful they got out,” Myers said. “It could’ve been even a worse tragedy.”
Philip Joens covers breaking news for The Des Moines Register. He can be reached at 515-443-3347 at [email protected] or on Twitter @Philip_Joens.