- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 3, 2006

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Paul Cravens tries to remain positive after experiencing personal loss during the holidays not once in his life, but twice.

A fire just three days after Christmas destroyed his home — 13 years after his wife and her three daughters were killed in a Christmas Eve car crash involving a drunk driver.

“I concentrate on all the good times we had together and know that God has something better in store for us,” Mr. Cravens said. Flames last Wednesday gutted his home in Tijeras, just east of Albuquerque.

On Christmas Eve 1992, Mr. Cravens and his family were traveling on Interstate 40 when a man who admitted drinking more than seven beers that day drove a pickup truck the wrong way and collided head-on with the family’s vehicle.

Mr. Cravens’ wife, Melanie Cravens, and her daughters — Kandyce, 9, Erin, 8 and Kacee Woodard, 5 — were killed. Gordon House of Thoreau, N.M., was convicted in 1995 of four counts of vehicular homicide and other charges and is serving a 22-year prison sentence.

Mr. Cravens survived the crash but was injured. He did not learn about the deaths until New Year’s Day 1993, which would have been Mrs. Craven’s 33rd birthday. The couple would have celebrated their third wedding anniversary on Jan. 4.

“After the fourth, we almost take another breath and begin to live again,” said Mrs. Craven’s mother, Nadine Milford, who has become a leading crusader against drunken driving in New Mexico since the crash.

An electrical short in the ceiling sparked a blaze last Wednesday at Mr. Cravens’ home. He was outside working at about 9:30 p.m. when he saw smoke in the house. He grabbed a fire extinguisher and a ladder, but it was too late.

“Pretty much everything is going to be a loss,” he said.

He was able to save the photos of his wife and the girls, along with notes for his master’s thesis in electrical engineering, a laptop computer and a few other things.

Mr. Cravens said that while he was recovering from injuries from the car crash years earlier, thieves broke into the family’s Albuquerque home and stole Christmas presents and clothes. He fears the same thing will happen this time, so he plans to stay in a trailer until he rebuilds on the same property.

Mr. Cravens said there are nights when he misses his wife and the girls, but the support of his family keeps him going. He was depressed for many years after the accident and said the holidays are particularly difficult.

“You can spend a lot of time thinking and being depressed, but there’s nothing you can do to change what happened,” he said. “You just have to anticipate that something better is coming down the road.”

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