Monica Tomtania, pastor at the Assembly of God church in the Bronx, was on her way to a wedding when she received a call that her apartment, on the second floor of a house also located in the Bronx, was on fire. By the time she rushed back, the three-story building was engulfed in flames.
Tomtania could only stand and watch firefighters struggle to save the building.
In the midst of the disaster, Tomtania saw the Red Cross arrive. At first, Tomtania did not accept services from the Red Cross, since she was eager to attend the wedding reception. Despite feeling sick from the fire’s smoke, she returned to the reception, then stayed the night with member of the congregation and preached her Sunday service the following morning.
Photos by Liz Borda
Soon after, Tomtania called the Red Cross for support. She was given emergency housing at a local hotel and referred to regional headquarters in Manhattan. There, she met with a Red Cross caseworker and received emergency financial assistance.
“I came in and the service is excellent,” Tomtania said. “You are doing a great job. With all the disasters happening around the world, the Red Cross responded in a powerful way.”
Tomtania, originally from Togo, Africa, had seen the work of the Red Cross before, when her oldest sister served as a fire service officer in Ghana. But she never expected a response in her own neighborhood.
“I read a little bit about Red Cross,” she said, “But I never knew I would be here….You’re doing a great job.”