Payroll Accounting, Transactions Manager

Although her supervisor called in the middle of the night to tell her about the fire, Jill Eckard is glad that she didn't wake up, because she wouldn't have gotten any sleep. When she did hear the phone, she also happened to have the television on and was watching it on the news. She saw a fireman put an ax through her office window, and at that point "I think my heart actually stopped beating for a second, and then I just felt really sick."

In addition to losing years of JMU work and backup materials that were used for audit purposes, Eckard lost a lot of personal belongings in the fire. A painting a dear friend and co-worker had made for her was ruined also among the building's ashes. She also lost her 15-year service plaque and certificate that had been signed by the governor. Other irreplaceable items such as $300 worth of Ty retired beanie babies and pictures created by her daughter seven years ago were ruined in the fire.

Eckard went to work on the day of the fire and stepped into the remains in an attempt to salvage anything possible from her own office as well as personal items out of the offices of her co-workers. The next day, the workers found themselves separated, "four of us were placed in a small conference room in the Office of Human Resources, three of us were placed in a corner of HR, and my supervisor was put in the conference room in the USB building as well."

The workdays to follow were filled with increased workloads. "We had to replace certain documents and others we had to make copies of to try and rebuild files we would need for future payrolls," Eckard says. This daunting task required Eckard to spend Saturdays and Sundays going through "wet stinky papers."

Now that Eckard's department has moved to their new location, she still has trouble remembering where she filed what and often finds herself needing documents that did not survive the fire. "I hope no other departments have to experience such a traumatic ordeal, and I can now relate to stories of families being displaced by fire."

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