Friday, September 21, 2012

If you asked me my name, I couldn’t tell you.

Disbelief … shock … sadness.

Sandra Simpson felt all these emotions while watching her basement become engulfed in flames on Labor Day 2012, then watching those flames leap to the first, and then the second, floor of her single-family, three-story home in Cambria Heights, New York.

The fire began when new bars were installed on the house’s basement windows. Without the welders’ knowledge, an errant spark had travelled into the basement, setting it afire. After the welders left, Simpson’s husband, who had gone outside to get the car, called his wife on his cell.

“Do you smell smoke?” he said.

He then spotted the flames, screamed for her to get out of the house, and called 911. (Luckily, their daughter, 19, was staying at her grandparents’ house.)

As they watched the flames spread, the fire department arrived. They quickly put out the blaze, which destroyed the basement and first floor, rendering the house unlivable.

“The Red Cross came maybe within a half hour,” said Simpson. “There were two responders, a brother and sister. Her first question to me was ‘Is everybody safe?” I told her yes. She asked me, ‘What do you need?’ She started to tell me about the Red Cross and all they could provide. She was so giving, so concerned.

“You’re dazed from what happened to you. You don’t know what to do or who to call and she provided such good information: ‘We’re going to get a hotel; if you need food, if you need clothes, we have those things in the van; tomorrow you’ll call the office. They’ll tell you if you need to come in and walk you through everything.’”

Simpson said that before the fire, she associated Red Cross only with CPR and blood donations.

“I had no idea that the Red Cross helped after a fire,” she said. “Before they arrived, I couldn’t think straight—and I’m a nurse. If you asked me my name, I couldn’t tell you. The responders calmed us down.”

After being dropped off at a nearby hotel, Simpson and her husband received many more calls from the Red Cross. “Everyone from the Red Cross who called said, ‘Are you okay?’ ‘You need to come in to see us.’ ‘Do you have food?’ ‘Did you get your debit card?’ I can’t thank the Red Cross enough.”

Sandra Simpson, Queens, N.Y.


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