Written by Hongwen Charng
Translated by Diana Chang
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto
“I was really overwhelmed because the fire alarms didn’t seem to work,” Cherrylin Acnesta recalled of the fire that occurred near midnight on July 10th, 2021. The devastating blaze had broken out at the Hanover Apartments, a 48-unit building in SeaTac, Washington.
“I didn’t even have time to grab my shoes before I ran outside,” said another resident, Mesfin Yeshewawerk, as he described racing barefoot to escape from the complex that night. “I heard screams outside and looked out the window to see what was going on, and found that the apartment we were in was emitting dense black smoke and was caught in a raging fire.” He and his wife had fled the fast-moving flames with their 2-year-old daughter in their arms. In the aftermath of the disaster, at least 80 people were displaced.
“The fire was upgraded to a level 3 – GO evacuation notice, and with about 20 different fire departments here, it took nearly five hours to bring the fire under control,” said firefighter John Wilkins. “But it’s good that all the residents were evacuated with no fatalities.”
“The first priority is to help families with babies find shelter,” said Carrie Caldwell, manager of Hanover Apartments. Carrie is a single mother with two daughters, and keenly feels the distress of displaced residents with children. After the fire, Carrie began working around the clock to help residents find other apartments with vacancies to house families.
On July 13th, Tzu Chi volunteers provided personal hygiene kits to residents, and guided them through completing a form to apply for emergency assistance. On July 18th, volunteers met with 25 families to deliver cash cards, DA.AI Technology eco-blankets, masks, and additional supplies.
“We can use this to buy food, clothes, and daily essentials. God bless you all,” one care recipient expressed their heartfelt thanks to volunteers in Spanish. And indeed, volunteers will hold all of the individuals and families impacted by this disaster firmly within their hearts.