Written by Wendy Tsai
Edited by Andrea Barkley
In the early hours on February 5, 2023, residents of an Annandale, Virginia, apartment building woke to fire inside their homes. Nearly 60 people were affected by the sudden blaze, but fortunately, all building residents made it to safety. A disaster assessment survey soon took place on February 13, and Tzu Chi Greater Washington, D.C. volunteers prepared for relief. On February 22, eight Tzu Chi Greater Washington, D.C. volunteers visited the scene to care for survivors, offering cash cards and warm blankets. On March 6, a second distribution followed, aiding eleven impacted households amidst this deeply challenging time.
When Tzu Chi volunteers arrived to investigate the disaster, it had been two weeks since the fire, but the site was still devastated. The fire, which started on the apartment’s third floor, left the building charred. Additionally, there were holes in the roof. “The fire displaced 11 families. Right now, most of them are staying with friends and family. A couple of them are put up in motels or hotels by their insurance [companies],” said apartment manager Richard Neil.
Liz, a survivorof the fire, still had lingering fears when talking about the disaster, “I went to the balcony, and I saw the fire close to my window and our home. That was something I will never forget in my life.”
Given the current economic crisis in the United States, survivors face financial pressures in addition to finding new housing. Thankfully, a few hours after the fire broke out, fellow charitable organizations provided timely food, clothes, and other supplies. Concurrently, Tzu Chi Washington, D.C. volunteers distributed cash cards to help survivors overcome the difficulties temporarily.
Volunteer Stephanie Harn explained Tzu Chi’s culture to survivors while expressing her care, “The money for the cash cards comes from a piggy bank, also known as a bamboo bank. We collect funds from caring people all over the world.”
Amidst a sudden blaze, life paths converged. People came together in a brief, caring moment to support fellow humans in need. Tzu Chi hopes this aid will ease disaster survivors’ burden as they await their home return.