SUGAR LAND, Texas — Millions were left without power in Texas during the February 2021 winter freeze.
“She loved my kids and would do anything for them,” Pham said about her mother. “She lost power and she never spends the night at my house and for whatever reason, that night she agreed to stay over.”
When their Sugar Land home lost power, the family was using the fireplace to keep warm. When Pham woke up in the middle of the night, the house was engulfed in flames. Sugar Land firefighters said a fireplace failure was to blame.
“My last memory is really us all playing in the living room, playing with each other and saying goodnight,” Pham said about the night of the tragedy.
Olivia was 11.
“She had so much depth and was really wise beyond her years,” Pham said of her oldest child.
Edison was 8.
“Super gentle boy. So loving,” Pham said of her middle child. "He just truly wanted everyone around him to be happy."
Colette was 5.
“She was just this ball of energy and part of it was maybe she was fighting her birth order,” Pham said of her youngest child. "She just wasn't going to stand for being the youngest, the smallest, she never let anything intimidate her."
After the tragedy, Pham's weekly routine changed.
“Carpool, parent-teacher conferences, Olivia would have been in 8th grade this year and we would have been talking about where to go to high school,” Pham said.
With her life turned upside down, Pham decided to hold onto the one thing she cherished most: her children.
“One of the things I realized was: I am still their mom and I will be their mom until my last breath,” Pham said.
She realized she could still be their mother by carrying on their mission.
Pham decided to dedicate her life to building a foundation for their legacy. She launched the CEO Foundation. The name includes her children's initials.
“I drew on this theme of empowering youth and the power behind the next generation of leaders and innovators and change-makers because I think that’s who my children would have grown up to be,” Pham said of the foundation.
They launched a website and hit the ground running. The CEO Foundation has already been out in the Sugar Land community to plant trees. They're also working on a project to re-imagine libraries with the St. Laurence Catholic School, where her children attended.
Life at home
Pham's home is full of pictures and art. They remind her of one of her daughter's favorite things to say.
“When Olivia was a really young toddler, she couldn’t say 'I love you' so she said 'love love,'” Pham said. "That just became how we expressed that to each other and then it just became something our family said."
"Love love" became the family's motto. They're words Pham needs now more than ever.
“I know my best days are behind me and I think it’s just a matter of how do I make the most of my remaining days," she said.
Pham said that if you know someone dealing with loss, you should reach out to them, sit with them and let them know their loved ones are not forgotten.