In a week of events that rocked our lives and caused great suffering, heroes emerged to help those in need during the tragedies of the Boston Marathon 2013 and the Texas plant explosion.
My continued thoughts, prayers, and support go out to everyone affected and all the heroes who helped the victims…and risked and gave their lives.
I have a story I’d like to share for the first time. Also, I’m providing information again for you to help in the fundraiser for the American Red Cross and The One Fund Boston. Please help in any way you can.
A Glimpse of Heroes in Action
One fateful night many years ago, I caught a glimpse of heroes in action that had such an enormous impact on me; I still remember every vivid detail.
I’d signed up to go on a police ride-along.
Of course, I’d chosen a night shift, as I wanted to see the brave officers chase down a suspect and handcuff him. Or at least…be in a speeding car with sirens blaring and lights twirling as we neared one hundred miles an hour to catch the bad guy.
I was given a basic safety rundown by my assigned officer and made to understand my role during the course of my ride-along. I was strictly an observer. Should anything bad go down, especially bullets flying, I was to follow the officer’s instruction without hesitation, remain in the safety of the police car if possible, and stay out of their way.
The first hour went by. Not even one single call came out over the radio. My images of excitement drifted to officers congregating at the corner doughnut shop, and I began to empathize with them. My hope, you see, wasn’t for criminal acts to happen during my ride-along…only that the crimes statistically being committed as we drove around in the midnight hour would be noticed, and we would be the ones to apprehend them.
Then it happened. An event beyond any of my imaginings for that night unfolded and my life was forever impacted. Many lives were forever impacted, far greater than mine, that night.
A fire had broken out in a multi-building apartment complex. When we arrived, a raging fire had engulfed an upper corner of a thirty-unit two-story building. Adjoining units had black smoke pouring out of every vent and opening. The police officers were the first to arrive on the scene.
My assigned officer pointed out various places I could stay safe amid the mayhem, but allowed me to wander freely, as he ran off with two other officers.
An observer. It’s what I was, and it was surreal watching each participant execute their roles as if born to them.
So many things happened simultaneously, I stood there for a while in shock as I witnessed the events unfold.
The three officers systematically raced from unit to unit, both upstairs and down. They pounded on doors and escorted residents to safety as they cleared the building. Within minutes, several laddered fire trucks arrived, the sounds of their sirens blaring into the night.
The sound of a fire destroying a building is unlike any other as it roars, things inside creaking and moaning, snapping and exploding. The smell is noxious and choking and fills your nostrils no matter how far away you stand. The heat is overwhelming and you find yourself backing up to a tolerable and survivable distance. Glowing cinders fly up in the direction of the wind…or sometimes wherever they’re shot to…and soot rains down from the sky.
Although I’m sure everyone in the surrounding buildings watched the rising orange flames and felt the intense heat as the fire devoured everything it touched, I didn’t notice them. I noticed the ones who’d lost their homes.
I remember one college-aged man who stood there staring in shock. I walked up next to him, and he glanced at me with a forlorn look on his face.
“I lost everything,” he said.
“Did you have renter’s insurance?” I asked, hoping to help, if only to talk to him.
“No,” he replied. “It wouldn’t have done any good anyway. I lost thousands of dollars in photography equipment, but ten times that value was in the photos I’d taken over many years.”
“I’m so sorry,” I said.
Condolences for his loss were all I could give, but I gave them anyway. It didn’t matter that I’d been relegated to an observer in the situation; my heart went out to that man.
Our attention diverted to a firefighter who burst out from a doorway. Thick black smoke poured out, as if chasing after him. He stumbled forward in the heavy tan protective gear they wore and pulled the helmet off his head, tossing it onto the grass. His captain, dressed in a navy t-shirt and cargo pants, jogged over as his firefighter doubled over, bracing his hands on his knees, sweat pouring from his face while he sucked in the cool night air. The captain pointed at another firefighter, and the man put on his helmet and ran into the same opening, taking the place of the one who’d tagged himself out of the ring.
A paramedic ran over with his kit seconds later, but the firefighter waved him off, shaking his head. I stood another thirty feet beyond them and felt the heat from my distance. I could only imagine what that firefighter was going through, overcome by the heat of being inside that building.
My officer waved an arm at me, approaching. I followed him behind the building, walking with a respectful wide berth around the smoking side of the building as he explained they’d been making sure the scene was secure and intended to remain there unless called away.
The parking lot behind the building had changed. A couple dozen families stood back there, clinging to each other. All of them looked lost. Many were crying, including grown men. My heart lurched for them.
One little girl’s cries rose above the roar of the fire.
From the driveway side of the parking lot, a lone woman walked up to the group. The woman was a volunteer from the American Red Cross.
Did she wear a red vest? I don’t recall. All I remember was the teddy bear she held up as she walked. The crying from the toddler stopped instantly, and she walked up to the stuffed animal being offered to her and embraced it. Tears filled my eyes as I watched. (They’re in my eyes again now as I type, a cramp at the base of my throat.)
Every adult standing there slowly gravitated toward the little girl and the woman, drawn to a shining beacon of hope in their disastrous night.
I stayed to the fringes and out of the way, but I heard what that American Red Cross volunteer said to them. She’d arranged for a place to stay for the rest of the night, where they would have somewhere to sleep, something to eat, and fresh clothes to change into; she asked if any needed medications and if any had any special health considerations; and she mentioned that she had resources for them to begin rebuilding their lives one step at a time once they made it through the night.
That American Red Cross worker pulled two dozen families from their shock and devastation and offered to help them in their time of crisis.
While the police secured the scene, and as the firefighters put out the blaze, the American Red Cross led the victims to a place of safety and recovery. All of those heroes worked together in a scene that happens every day and night all across our country and around the world.
I’m forever grateful to have gotten a glimpse of true heroes in action and be able to share the story with you. It’s led to my support of the American Red Cross throughout the years and I hope it inspires you to support them as well. Whether the disaster is natural or man-made the American Red Cross is there to help.
I hope none of us ever suffer a disaster, but should we find ourselves in need, look for that American Red Cross worker. They are there for you.
Support The American Red Cross
There’s a special fundraiser still ongoing through the end of the month to help those impacted by the tragedies of the Boston Marathon 2013 and the Texas plant explosion. I encourage you to participate by donating and entering the contest. I’ve done both, and should I win the giveaway, I intend to give away the rare set of books signed by Sylvain Reynard to a very special person who would be over the moon to receive them and was personally affected by the Boston Marathon tragedy.
Here are ways you can help and information about the fundraiser and giveaway:
1. Please donate to the American Red Cross, who responds to those in need of support when disaster strikes.
2. According to a recent Tweet from the American Red Cross, “To help people most affected by the tragic events in Boston on 4.15.13 visit theonefundboston.org #BostonMarathon”
Click on The One Fund Boston link to donate and learn more.
Also, I’d like to share with you the following message from my friend Jenn at Argyle Empire…
In response to the tragedy in Boston, Argyle Empire is hosting a fundraiser to aid the American Red Cross.
Given that part of the Gabriel series is set in Boston, we felt it was an appropriate thing to do.
If people donate at least $5.00 to the American Red Cross and/or The One Fund Boston and email a copy of their receipt to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, they can enter a giveaway by visiting argyleempire.com. SR has agreed to sign UK edition copies of both Gabriel’s Inferno and Gabriel’s Rapture for the winner.
The fundraiser will run between now and April 30. The winner will be selected on May 1 and notified by May 3.
If you could help us promote this, that would be great. If you would like to donate and enter the giveaway, please feel free to do so. This is really about helping out the charity, after all.
Thank you all for all the donations you’ve made so far. Keep them coming and please spread the word through your social channels. They’ve already raised over $1,500 in five days. Their goal is $2,500 by May 1st. Shall we knock everyone’s socks off and make it a cool $5,000?
It’s by stepping out and embracing others with love that we shine a bright light of hope in our world.
Thank you for being heroes, my friends.
Your humble shoe,
© 2013 by Kat Bastion