Lightning blew through the Hauser family home in Cheektowaga on Sunday night as the couple huddled from the tremendous storm. They survived, although that's hard to believe by looking at the inside of the house.
Yet it was the charred remains of the last doll her mother had given her more than 45 years ago that left Margie Hauser in tears Tuesday.
She and her husband, Ray, are coming to grips with the loss of most of their possessions, two days after lightning ignited a fire that heavily damaged their South Huth Road home.
But then she looked down in the burned-out bedroom and cried out when she saw the doll.
"My mother died when I was only 10, and that was the last doll she gave me," Mrs. Hauser said, weeping. "I hung on to it."
Hauser, 59, just shakes his head at the toll the lightning took when it struck.
"If you saw it from the outside, you'd say, 'Oh, it doesn't look that bad,' " he said.
The lightning may have struck a chain-link fence that is next to the house and traveled to the house.
"Or it might have hit the house and jumped to the fence," said Cleveland Hill Fire Chief Lale Lewis.
The lightning blew out the lights, started a fire in a first-floor bedroom, then apparently exited the house through the plumbing, bursting the water line between the Cape Cod house and the street.
Today, the marigolds stand perkily in the front yard, and the American flag remains on the front door of the light mint house. But windows on one side are boarded up, evidence of the fire that destroyed the bedroom.
"If there would have been someone in the room, I don't want to speculate what would have happened to them," Lewis said.
After coming through her breast cancer two years ago and his heart attack a year ago, the Hausers were looking forward to the day that he would retire from customer assistance at Appletree Mall and they would travel in their newly purchased mobile home.
Instead, they'll be spending months in temporary housing while their home is repaired.
According to the National Weather Service, lightning can enter buildings through a direct strike, wires or pipes extending outside the structure, or through the ground. Once there, it can travel through electrical, phone and plumbing lines and radio and television reception systems, as well as metal wires in concrete walls or flooring.
The room that took the most damage also was the room where Mrs. Hauser, 56, displayed many of her more than 1,000 collectible dolls. Many were signed, limited-edition dolls by Lee Middleton, Lloyd Middleton, Virginia Turner and Phyllis Parkins, worth hundreds of dollars each, she said.
After the fire was extinguished by Cleveland Hill firefighters, they brought the Hausers into the house.
"When they walked us through, we were just numb and dumbfounded," Mrs. Hauser said.
But the couple know they are lucky. They and their dog, Sparky, got out safely, and none of their four children was at home when the fire started.