2 minute readDisaster, Home Fire
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When the Unexpected Happens: Bill and Norma’s Red Cross Story

Editor’s note: A version of this story originally appeared on the Red Cross National Capital Region blog. Story by Mallory Rabon. 

How quickly an ordinary day can turn upside down. It had been like any other, and there was nothing irregular to mark the night as peculiar. Norma had fallen asleep on the couch in the den, her books lying unread beside her, and Bill was asleep in the bedroom.

Being a light sleeper, Norma startled awake around 1 a.m. to an odd noise coming from outside. She moved from the den to investigate, and in her half-awake state, she could barely register what she was witnessing – flames on the back patio.

Bill and Norma’s night quickly turned into a nightmare as they rushed to evacuate their home and watched their house burn from the street. As neighbors came outside to keep them company, a Red Cross volunteer named Martha arrived on the scene.

She was an unexpected comfort to the devastated couple, and she brought a sense of calm to the horrible situation. Martha provided more than kindness and compassion when she brought Bill and Norma a bag full of shampoo, clothes, toiletries, and a gift card – necessities that are so-often taken for granted until they are gone.

In the days that followed, Norma and Bill struggled to move forward. They are grateful for Martha’s help, and though being displaced is difficult, they were very appreciative of the Red Cross’ assistance.

Unfortunately, most of the house was destroyed, and as Norma so aptly put it, “the fire did $100,000 of damage and the water to put it out did $200,000.” The home is barely salvageable, but they were able to recover some of their belongings to be cleaned and refurbished.

Thankfully, Norma and Bill had temporary housing on the same block, which was a perfect location to ensure that their two cats could still be properly taken care of. Norma says that they are “encouraging one another and keeping a good profile.” She went on to say that they are not going to stay in a place of sadness, and they want to keep a joyful spirit.

Through the help of their wonderful neighbors, friends, Red Cross volunteers like Martha, and many more, they feel an overwhelming sense of support that helps them to stay positive. Though the fire was unexpected, the unanticipated aid and encouragement from the surrounding community certainly made Norma and Bill feel that they are not alone during a challenging and stressful time.

Red Cross Home Fire Campaign

In an ongoing effort to reduce death and injury from home fires, the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign is hosting a series of installation and fire safety events across the country. Red Cross volunteers, along with fire departments and other partners, canvass high-risk neighborhoods, installing free smoke alarms, replacing batteries in existing alarms and helping families create escape plans. Since 2014, the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign has saved at least 258 lives and installed more than more than 886,000 smoke alarms in cities and towns across the United States.

Learn how you can help us Sound the Alarm to #EndHomeFires this fall.