More than a month after 39-year-old Anthony Stephan House was killed by a package bomb while standing on his front porch, the door to his Northeast Austin home was still covered by a thin piece of plywood. Nails and shrapnel from the homemade device had penetrated the walls, and the concrete entryway was left crumbling.
“Standing on that porch will give you the chills,” said Kelli Parrott, who works for a local real estate company that volunteered to repair the house. “You don’t get the grasp of it until you see it in person.”
House was killed March 2 when a package left by the Austin serial bomber exploded at his home in the 1100 block of Haverford Drive. He left behind a wife and 8-year-old daughter, who have yet to move back in after the blast.
On Saturday, agents from the Roman Lopez real estate team joined volunteer construction workers to repair the home, with the help of a donation from the Cedric Benson Foundation.
After the explosion, Lopez said, he learned the House family was a former client.
“We saw the opportunity to help someone in need in very unfortunate circumstances no one expected,” he said. “Actually being on the property and driving into the neighborhood where it happened definitely has an impact. And more so meeting the family and seeing how it has really affected them and their inability to come back home until everything is restored back to normal and all the memories of that devastating day are erased.”
The team Saturday removed the shattered white door that was blown apart in the blast and replaced it with one that House’s wife picked out — a deep shade of brown with a star emblazoned in the glass. Construction workers also repaired the drywall and concrete foundation while volunteers mowed the lawn, pulled weeds and planted flowers.
Lopez said other local companies had stepped up to install new closets in the house and donate handyman and house-cleaning services for House’s wife.
“You can tell in her eyes how excited and relieved she was,” said Cedric Benson, the former University of Texas and NFL star. “That’s the greatest return.”
House was the first victim in the string of deadly explosions linked to the Austin bomber. Seventeen-year-old Draylen Mason was later killed and five others wounded in the string of attacks that ran from March 2 to March 21 and ended when Mark Conditt blew himself up in Round Rock as police closed in on him. The first three package bombs were placed outside homes, leaving tangible wreckage for the families that live there.
“There was a huge sense of anxiety in the community,” said Neela Beddoe, who works for the real estate firm. “It just feels great to be able to come together … and to … repair all of that damage that has happened. That’s the least we can do.”
The House family is still accepting donations through two GoFundMe accounts set up after the bombings, one started by his family for his survivors and one by his mother that aims to raise money for his 8-year-old daughter.