Tuesday, April 3, 2012

“The Red Cross was like a guardian angel.”

Diana Perez
by Laura Steifman

Diana Perez is the matriarch of a 12-person extended family that lives together on the second floor apartment of a private house in Queens, New York. One day about noon, Perez’s 23-year old son came upstairs from doing laundry and reported smelling smoke.

Though the five family members who were home at the time couldn’t immediately see the smoke, they could smell it, so they vacated the apartment and called the fire department.

Firefighters broke into the first floor of the house and found smoke coming from the wall. They determined the fire to be electrical, extinguished it, and gave the family clearance to go back upstairs.

A short time later, however, the family discovered more smoke issuing from the attic.

“It was seeping through the walls, the stairs, the closet, and up to the roof,” said Perez.

Once again, the family fled the house and called 911. This time, they were not so lucky.

“We watched from the front of the house as the building burned,” Perez said. “I cried. I was so scared because we don’t have any other family to go to; it’s just us living together.”

Although the family’s second floor apartment was destroyed, “The Red Cross was like a guardian angel,” Perez said. “If it weren’t for them we would have to stay on the street. God bless that Red Cross responder. She helped calm me down and told me how to explain it to the kids.”

The Red Cross provided the Perez family with emergency housing in a hotel, as well as financial assistance for basic needs.

“And now they are helping us figure out what to do next,” said Perez. “I never knew the Red Cross did this. We thought it was just for big disasters or the blood bank. Now I have a better understanding of the Red Cross. Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

Diana Perez, Queens, N.Y.

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