Last Tuesday night my apartment building in downtown DC had a 3-alarm fire. I came home to a half dozen fire trucks and first responders all over the block and could not get in to our apartment to get anything – let alone things my 6 month old baby needed.
Residents were meeting in the lobby of a nearby apartment building to get any information we could – hours went by with promises we’d be able to get back into our apartment if it wasn’t affected. Quickly volunteers from the National Capital Area Red Cross DAT team were on the scene. One I spoke with traveled all the way into downtown DC from Montgomery County during rush hour and said – “I’m happy to be here to help.”
Everyone – the first responders, the property manager, were saying – “the Red Cross will take care of you.” And they did — they made sure folks got some dinner, there were snacks and water for the firemen (2 of which were injured responding to the blaze), there were Red Cross blankets and helpful volunteers to be there as people vented, cried and waited. Some of the elderly residents were especially concerned about their medications and where they would spend the night; Red Cross volunteers helped them make arrangements and even briefly get back into the building if their units were not affected to get a few items.
Ultimately our unit was thankfully untouched by the fire aside from some smoke smell but we had to stay at a nearby hotel for the night as no residents were allowed to reoccupy til the next morning. It was the first night the baby didn’t sleep in her own crib – and I’m sure the moms and dads out there know that didn’t go over well.
I am a walking testimony to how disruptive a fire can be – but now I can almost imagine how unspeakably awful it would be to lose everything and be totally unprepared for it. You go to work or leave your home, thinking you’ll be back later like normal. The Red Cross volunteers understand that – and help people start to piece their lives together again.
The investigators are saying now the cause of the fire was unattended candles. The ultimate “home fire awareness season” story from the Red Cross perspective.
So with the holidays coming up, I just wanted share my story – so people would say thanks to their local chapter and volunteers – which is there whether they know it or not. And make a donation to the Red Cross, as we will, to support all the volunteers, all the resources and infrastructure, and all the communities who experience home fires and disasters like these all year round.
The Red Cross is there when the fire and police trucks leave and families are truly left out on the curb, wondering – what do I do for tonight? Or what do I do now that everything of mine is destroyed? Having gone through it now in a small way, I have a new appreciation for and pride in what we do.