Robert Alexander sits on the tailgate of his truck under a shade tree next to what remains of his Gallatin home for more than 40 years.
The 83-year-old, who still works fulltime, has returned every day to the Santa Monica Boulevard residence since it was destroyed by a fire earlier this month.
“It’s hard to stay away,” Alexander told Main Street Nashville last week. “(This house) means a lot to me because it was a lot of hard work. I’ve done cried several times over this.”
According to the family, the fire was started by fireworks.
Natasha Alexander, Robert’s daughter, said two of her children were playing basketball at Municipal Park in Gallatin around 10:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 1 when an unknown car pulled up and began throwing fireworks at the teenagers.
The siblings got in their car and fled but were followed to their grandfather’s home less than two miles away.
“When my kids got to the house they ran inside,” Natasha Alexander said. “The car kept circling and throwing fireworks. The next thing you know… it hit somewhere on our carport and the house caught fire from there.”
At the time, eight people were inside the residence, according to the family. The youngest was three years old. All were able to escape without injury.
Robert Alexander was at work when he learned about the fire from a coworker who has family that lives nearby.
“When I came around the corner that whole side where the cars were was on fire,” he said about what he saw when he arrived at his house sometime after midnight. “One of them was a 1978 Dodge Maxi Van. I had a refrigerator, bed and bar in it – all that stuff.”
According to the family, the fire burned through the night until about 5 a.m. the next morning. Practically everything inside was lost including irreplaceable family pictures like ones of Robert Alexander’s late wife and mother.
“They took everything from our family by just being carless and stupid,” Natasha Alexander said through tears. “I don’t think they intentionally set out to set my dad’s house on fire but being reckless the way they were cost him and my family everything.”
The Sumner County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the cause of the fire, Chief Deputy Aaron Pickard confirmed last week. No arrests had been made as of Monday.
Robert Alexander, who had hoped to retire in December, said he is unsure if he will now be able to. He is currently staying with a friend while other members of the family are staying in area hotels.
While the home was insured, two of the vehicles that were destroyed were not covered, he added.
A GoFundMe page titled “The Alexander family house fire” has raised more than $27,500 for the family since it was created on July 2. The goal was $7,000.
“It has been a true blessing,” Natasha Alexander said about the community support for her family. “To see the overwhelming amount of people that have reached out and care enough about my father and our story is wonderful. My dad cried when he saw that everybody was going above and beyond to try to help him. Of course, it doesn’t bring back anything like the memories we lost, but it’s a great start.”