Friday, July 18, 2014

Inside a Red Cross Response to a Dallas Apartment Fire

By Kay Pinkerton, volunteer contributor

A tenant’s burning candles led to a predawn blaze Saturday, April 12, at the Mayan Palms apartment complex located in Southeast Dallas.  The four-alarm fire consumed 36 apartments, destroying the homes and possessions of more than 50 tenants.

Thankfully, no deaths were reported. 

The American Red Cross was on the scene, offering blankets, safe shelter and emotional support to the fire victims.
A Mayan Palms tenant wrapped herself in a Red Cross blanket after escaping the flames that ripped through her apartment.  Her relative, Virginia Reyez, later searched for the woman’s belongings in the tangled debris of wood, glass and metal -- all that remained of the apartment.  Reyez used the same Red Cross blanket to wrap and protect a surprising find.    

The woman’s jewelry box.
“It’s one of the most valuable things she owns now,” said Reyez.
 Being Grateful

The Red Cross opened a shelter at Samuel Grand Recreation Center after the fire was contained.  There, Red Cross volunteers provided information, support and a listening ear to fire victims who had lost their homes. 
Inside the shelter, Minnie Sessions sat in a row of chairs next to her son and his wife.

"I was asleep, woke up and smelled smoke. And I said, 'I know I ain't cooked,'" recalled Minnie.
She walked into the living room of her apartment. "I went in there and seen all that smoke," she said. "I grabbed a tub of clothes and drug them out with me."

Minnie's son, Freddie Sessions, admitted he felt overwhelmed by the day’s events. Still, he was grateful for his mother’s life, and appreciated the help and support she had received.
"She didn't have a jacket, and someone gave my mother a jacket,” he said. "There are good people out there.  To see them come out, you know, and help her. To be there for her.”
“I'm very grateful for the Red Cross organization,” said Sessions.
Helping Your Neighbor
Back at the scene of the fire, a young apartment resident surveyed the damage while recalling that morning’s frightening events. 
“I hear all this, this screaming.  ‘Fire!’  I woke my baby up, and we went outside,” said the woman.  “I saw a guy get one person out.  They had to break the fence down to get him out because he was on a cane.”
The woman was saddened by the devastating loss.  
“My apartment’s okay,” she said.  “But our friends?  Our close neighbors are going through this.  And there’s nothing we can do.”
At the Red Cross, there is something we can do. 

Red Cross disaster relief helps victims get back on their feet and resume their lives as quickly as possible. The organization also supports emergency workers, links family members outside the disaster area, and provides blood and blood products to disaster victims. 

For more information about the Red Cross and its services, or to learn how you can help, visit

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