Thursday, March 8, 2007

Burned Alive In The Bronx

Just an aside - you may've noticed I've been wearing the same color outfits in my entries.  It's the Lenten color and I just wanted to show my faith.  I'm not ashamed of it. 

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Now I have something painful to describe, a true story of such hellish horror some may not be able to read any further, after a few lines.  But try - the greatest fear the human flesh is heir to is fire.  And this is a story about incredible fear.

The other day there was a horrific fire in the Bronx, New York, not far from Jersey here.  So we get the best newscasts and most frequent up-to-date broadcasts.  Pictures.  Sound bites.  Interviews with witnesses.  This was awful, oh Lord and so unnecessary.

A family of 22 people from the poorest country on earth, called Mali, in mid-west Africa, were living in a one-family dwelling in the Bronx.  22 people making up three families, mostly young children.  A fire started in the basement - it's origin seems to have been a space heater.  Why in the basement?  Men, women and children lived down there.  A woman tried to put out the fire as everyone ran upstairs.  She was overwhelmed so she, too, ran upstairs - but she left the door open and the fire started licking its way further up and up and up the dwelling.  Screaming women opened windows and pleaded for someone to catch their babies.  The fire was so close they didn't always wait for help - but I'm proud and happy to say neighbors came running as mothers tossed their babies out 30' high windows, many falls being buffered by the combined bodies of those people.  The fire spread so fast that the children inside were already dead or dying before the fire department trucks could even descend on the hellish scene.  All told, 8 children and one adult died in this inferno.  Many lived.  Two are critical, two babies.  They're not expected to last.  All the children were between the ages of 2 and 9 years.  They died in their cribs.  TheCOD for most was smoke inhalation.  Imagine coughing and choking for air, then feeling yourself burning, smelling your own flesh bake on your bone. 

The outpouring of grief is inconsolable, though many are trying.  People from everywhere  have come to help, including the newly-formed Emergency Relief, Inc., an experiment in corporate on-scene charity.  They've been giving out clothes, food, the Red Cross is there still, and the building smolders - it's said when you walk past the area, you can detect an unfamiliar aroma, a miasma of "something" not quite identifiable.  Except to coroners.  The mourning for the babies goes on.  I noticed no candles were lit and set before the smoking ruins.  Only flowers with personal notes, signs proclaiming all the prayers being said. 

Now comes the pain of those who survived the fire.  Your nerve endings have been exposed, there is no pain like this, none.      

They're rushed into the Burn Unit for debriding, the surgical removal of lacerated, contaminated and dead tissue.  While lying on a tarp on a steel table similar to one used for autopsies (for the drains) they gently spray water all over the screaming victim to cleanse the burns and wash away the singed tissue.  Now, these suffering souls have already been given as much morphine and opioids as reasonably possible, without killing them.  Some I noticed were infants, and children ages 2 to 9.  All, I know, suffered greatly and still are.  In addition to the skin grafts to come, they will never feel the same again.  They will never be without pain in their lives, these innocent souls.  Areas of their body will have no feeling whilst others too much.  Without continual pain medication they cannot move through the world.  The proximate amount of years of skin grafting for the badly-burned is 3 to 5 years.  Easily. 

Those with smoke inhalation damage go into the Hyberbaric Chamber to remove the toxin from their lungs.  Babies.  Young adults.  Breathing in so much carbon monoxide is said to be worse than if you'd been a life-long smoker, say 2 packs a day.  Their lungs are damaged but they'll be able to breathe again.  They can hear the wrenching screams coming from the Burn Unit. 

Now I talk of the everyday heroes, the neighbors who saved the falling infants and children, and lest I ever forget them, the unquestioning duty of the firefighters who enter hell without a second thought for their own safety.  They look for people trying to find the stairs.  They help them.  They saved them.  Everyday heroes. 

You might've been thinking about the law by now, the 22 people, 3 families actually, living in a one-family house.  The owner had only recently filed for a permit to convert the building into a 3-family dwelling.  Now you're about to become angry:  the complex maze of building and housing codes is boggling the minds of the city lawyers, as they search for the place to point fingers, lay blame.  The reason for their legal problems?  NO VIOLATIONS WERE SITED FOR THIS DWELLING.  It seems the Housing Authority in charge of inspecting, and insuring that the owner/landlord maintain such buildings, found NO VIOLATIONS on their last visit.  And yet:  There were no batteries in the smoke detectors.  There was no sprinkler systems found anywhere.  There were no stairwells inside, no folding ladders outside.  And of course, there were 22 people, mostly very young children, jammed into that one space.  No violations?  WTH??  I investigated this further, and it seems there is "no cap" on the owner's responsibility if he lives on the premises.  The owner lived on the premises. 

I ask of you, my dear Journal friends, all of who I've come to care for and who've taken the trouble to read my jottings, PLEASE!  When you set your clocks ahead this Sunday, check the batteries in your smoke detectors and if you have none, you can get them free from the Department of Human Services wherever you live.  PLEASE do this.  What's the sense of keeping perfect time if we can't keep babies from burning. 

Too saddened to go on.  Time to pray for the living and mourn the dead. 

 

 

   

 

11 comments:

yenrrabeep said...

powerful

cyndelouwho22 said...

Cathy--I'm not sure how to even comment on this, I am so unbelievably horrified and saddened. My heart goes out to all the families that are suffering from loss and/or pain and they will be in my continual prayers. I will pray for you, too, my dear friend, as you seem to be touched so deeply by all these things. God bless you and thank you for sharing that story in your ever eloquent manner.

queenb8261 said...

There's nothing more painful than I burn like that I'd imagine. I had a bad staph infection after an operation & it had to be left open (packed) and everyday I had to go and have the wound debrided. I cannot even begin to fathom what these poor people are going to have to go through. Your all to get those smoke detectors is one of the best pieces of advice one could receive. Thanks for sharing this powerful entry.
Barb

luddie343 said...

Cathy 2 Barb:  I feel for what you went thru, somehow I know you were very brave.  Thanks for your continual comments, and I do hope people pay attention to this one about the smoke alarms.  

treesrgreen78 said...

Hi my friend, I saw this story on tv and could not possibly imagine the horror these people went through, nor the brave ones who tried to save them.  Being very close to where this happened hits close to home for everyone, especially my dear friend Luddie who from this writing you can see how very much you are suffering as well.  This fire did not just encompass 22 people, it took in the firefighters, the people who so valiantly tried to save the 22 and all those who followed this story.  It is quite obvious that the laws for landlords living on the property immediately need to be changed, this is a complete travesty.  Many years ago I received a burn to my shoulder from some boiling water, the pain was excruciating.  I also worked in a rehab. hospital and saw many burn victims, the horrors and pain they must go through is indescribable.  My prayers are with all these people who suffered, the ones who tried to save them, the firefighters and those who have been close to this story.  Most especially my prayers are with my friend Luddie, whom I know is in a great deal of pain and suffereing.  May I add a comment about smoke detectors, yes it is very important to change the batteries annually with high quality batteries.  I have recently heard that if your detectors are 10 years old they should be replaced as well.  God bless my friend, I am thinking of you.

pharmolo said...

Thanks for raising the plight of these people, who are at the mercy of unscrupulous landlords and corrupt officials. And you're right: check the batteries in those smoke detectors.

barbpinion said...

Excellent, but sad entry. It evoked memories of me, years ago, when in the hospital. I heard screaming like I'd never heard in my life- asked about it- was told it was two adults and their child. They had been in a fire. All but the child had been burns over 90% of their bodies. The baby had 50% which was horrible. I cried, hearing them from my bed, asked if they couldnt; be given something- was told they had been. THAT fact blew my mind. Many years later a woman moved into the apt. next to mine- had been in a fire. I recall, even today, the horror in her eyes, when she talked to me about it. I am sad, but ANGRY that this happened at all. It could have been avoided had there been violations issued, had there been smoke detetors, sprinkling systems, stairwells, ladders, etc.
Barb- http://journals.aol.com/barbpinion/HEYLETSTALK

artloner said...

Hey Boo:  Where are YOU?


;)

swmpgrly said...

you know mine has been beeping for a week... ill take care of that right away TY

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Anonymous said...

thanks amigo! great post!.