New reality is unveiled

The Tates watch from Tampa Theatre as their home debuts on national television.

Published March 5, 2007

TAMPA - The sad reality is that a small plane fell from the sky and onto the Tate family's Davis Islands home last June.

The crash and fire killed the pilot, Steve Huisman, and critically injured co-pilot Sean Launder.

Cynthia Tate, who was home when the plane crashed, escaped uninjured, but the family pets died in the fire and the home was devastated.

The happy reality is that the Tates got a brand new home - 3,500 square feet, two stories, four bedrooms and a guest suite - courtesy of the ABC television show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

Sunday night, the family and a few hundred friends convened at downtown's Tampa Theatre for something like reality, but with a tweak or two.

It was the viewing party for the Tates' big episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

ABC's local affiliate, WFTS-Ch. 28, broadcast live from the theater to local viewers for an hour before the 8 p.m. episode.

Friends piled into the theater seats, many into the back rows. But not for long.

"We need everyone back here to move up - we need to tighten it up," a WFTS staffer instructed. "You can get on TV."

Among the mover-uppers was Korie Tinnan, who crashed the viewing party with her friend Mike Vicker. She said they'd been at a nearby bar when they noticed the hubbub.

They slid in quietly behind a mass of guests, and next thing they knew, WFTS meteorologist Denis Phillips was interviewing people right next to them.

Meanwhile, WFTS's Brendan McLaughlin and Linda Hurtado interviewed Tom and Cynthia Tate as friends cheered. Cynthia wiped away a tear. Tom gave her shoulders a squeeze.

The destroyed home had not been insured, due to a paperwork glitch during refinancing.

The Extreme Makeover crew, led by Bonita Springs contractor WCI, built the family a new place during a week in January.

Cynthia Tate was asked how that process went.

"I'm not sure," she replied. "We were in Costa Rica."

The finished product, however, brought tears to everyone's eyes.

"It's just what I wanted, and it's perfect," said Loren Tate, the couple's daughter.

As 8 p.m. rolled around, the national broadcast began - with more fantasy than reality. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition host Ty Pennington kicked it off by riding a boat through what appeared to be the Everglades.

Most of the crowd laughed, and applauded. That's television.

The reality is that whatever shows up on TV, the Tates have a lovely abode. And as friends sat in Tampa Theatre and enjoyed the televised story, the family headed back across the bridge to enjoy its new digs.