|L to R: Ana Arrendel, Rances Gantier and Carmen Morales
The moment Carmen Morales smelled smoke the afternoon of December 21, she and her 18-year-old son José raced out of their ninth floor Bronx apartment. But because the smoke was billowing through their stairwell, firefighters met them a few floors below and sent the pair back to their apartment, to wait, very scared, for half an hour, until the firefighters returned to lead them outside.
When they emerged from the building, “The Red Cross was right there,” said Carmen. “They put us into a warm bus and gave us something to eat and drink, then took us to a community center.” At the center, Carmen and Jose were provided with more hot food and beverages, as well as emotional support and emergency housing at a local hotel.
Ana Arrendel, another Grand Concourse tenant, was at her job as a hairdresser, right across the street from the building, when she was alerted to the fire. Distraught, she immediately called her son Rances, who was teaching a class of pre-K students at a nearby school. Rances came home as soon as he could. He and his mother were also taken by bus to the community center, where they too, received emergency Red Cross assistance.
The two mothers and sons, who had not known each other before the fire, met at Chapter headquarters in Manhattan the next day, where Red Cross client caseworkers provided them with further services, along with referrals to other agencies that could help meet their longer-term needs.
“The Red Cross is the best there is in New York,” said Ana.“They gave me hospitality I wasn’t expecting.” When things get back to normal, she said, she plans to take up a collection for the Red Cross so that the organization can help others who find themselves in the same situation. Carmen added, “I’m very thankful to the Red Cross.”
Ana Arrendel, Rances Gantier and Carmen Morales, Bronx, NY