Written by Jing Jia Ning
Translated by Hong (Ariel) Chan
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto
On January 17, 2022, the small coastal town of Salisbury, MA, experienced a powerful storm. Amid the low temperatures and high winds, a fire had sparked, and extended across five buildings in the community while families hurried to escape in time. Firefighters responded swiftly to the scene and contained the blaze. While no one was injured, at least 30 families were temporarily displaced by the sudden tragedy.
Without delay, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency called upon community relief organizations, like the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and Tzu Chi, among others, to assemble at the Hilton Senior Center to better understand survivors’ immediate needs. In addition to collecting information on-site, Tzu Chi volunteers also reached out to apartment fire survivors via phone consultations, and provided support for 21 affected households.
Tzu Chi Boston volunteers were initially scheduled to offer their assistance on January 29, but a snowstorm briefly postponed their efforts. The very next week, on February 5, relief procedures officially resumed. The day of the distribution happened to coincide with the Lunar New Year, yet volunteers were keen to pay their visit. The temperature on-site was 23℉, and the car slid on the snow. Volunteers had kept a close eye on the areas in the parking lot where salt was sprinkled.
The distribution site abounded with warm, eco-friendly scarves, blankets, and bamboo banks, as well as oranges and biscuits for the New Year festival. And, after volunteers performed the Sign Language piece, “We Are Family,” a powerful sense of relief began to permeate the space, indeed. The genuine interactions between community residents at the distribution seemed to warm the hearts of all in attendance.
One survivor of the recent apartment fire had shared their thoughts with volunteers, expressing, “In this situation, I realize how many good people there are in this world. I have to find a new direction. Although the situation is not very good now, it doesn’t matter, because I know that I have to move forward. It’s not just helping myself, it’s helping others.”
Five-month-old baby James brought light and hope to the distribution site as well. Thankfully, little James never saw the fire. With a smile, he snuggled into his mother’s arms and waited quietly as procedures got underway. James’s mother, Annabelle, had escaped the apartment fire with James and another young daughter. As she spoke, Annabelle bent down and kissed her baby’s forehead.
The warmth gradually spread across the room. However, there was a tall, quiet figure who still waited in the corner. Volunteers joined him to offer their comfort, and when he greeted them with sadness in his eyes, volunteers invited him with open arms, saying, “You need a hug.” The man bowed his head, and the volunteer hugged him earnestly. After a moment, a low voice reached the volunteer’s ears, saying, “This is all I need.” In his fifties, Charles has experienced three violent fires in his life, and gratefully reciprocated the hug.
Sincere love and care abound at the relief distribution. Photo/Jing Jia Ning