GAITHERSBURG, Md. - A Maryland man is opening up to FOX 5 one year after his life changed forever. On Dec. 8, 2014, a small jet smashed into his Gaithersburg neighborhood and his wife and their two young sons were killed when their home caught fire.
Ken Gemmell and his 8-year-old daughter, Arabelle, are sharing with us what their life has been like since that tragic crash.
There is a Christmas tree at the Gemmell household this year, but there are only two stockings up.
Exactly one year ago, Gemmell’s home burned to the ground after a plane dove into his neighbor’s yard. The wing that was carrying fuel separated and caused a fire to rage through the house leaving his wife, Marie, their 6-week-old son, Devin, and 3-year-old son, Cole, with no way out.
"I think deep down I knew what had happened, but because initial reports were that they didn't find them, I kind of was holding out hope as much as I could that they were somewhere else,” Gemmell said.
In the past year, Ken and his daughter have tried to pick up the pieces and find some sense of normalcy in their life. But the memory of Marie and the boys is ever present.
"Trying to keep that spirit alive and let her know more about what her mom was because she has the memories as a 7-year-old,” said Gemmell. “She doesn’t remember a lot of the details.”
But among the most difficult of the tasks was telling little Arabelle what happened.
“I just brought her to the back bedroom and told her and it was tough,” he told us. “She didn't really understand it and it was the hardest thing.”
In the last 12 months, Gemmell quit his job and bought a housecleaning business in order to dedicate more time to his daughter.
"[A] tablet was the only electronics in the house that didn't get damaged and I don't know why,” said Gemmell. “It was in a room where everything else was melted."
The house where the tragedy happened is now a full-blown construction site where Ken tries to spend as little time as possible. One year later, there is an eerie feeling as planes hover above on a crisp December day. A small memorial is outside serving as a reminder of that tragic morning.
“At night is when I realize I don't have Marie with me because that's our time we watch TV or do whatever and now there's no one there,” he said.
“It's been incredibly tough. I'm guess I’m doing okay. I’m getting through the days. It's okay to cry in front of her, but I don't want her to think that's all daddy does and he can't figure out how to move forward with it. Because we have to try to figure out a way to make the most out of the rest of our lives.”
Gemmell has set up two scholarship funds at Rowan University in New Jersey to honor his late wife, a place where they both met. A GoFundMe page set up immediately after the crash has raised nearly $500,000.
Gemmell said had it not been for the community's support, he wouldn't have known what to do and it helped him tremendously as he tries to bring back some sort of sense of normalcy to their lives. They say they will continue to do so, but never forgetting Marie, Cole and Devon.