Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My Red Cross moment

In 1991, the Spousal Unit and I decided to move from Pittsburgh to Minneapolis. That move is a saga unto itself, complete with lost cats, motels from hell, getting loss on the Dan Ryan in Chicago at rush hour, and a blown tire on the U-Haul. And that was all just the first 3 days of moving.

Anyway, we managed to get him moved in early June (with the cats), into a one bedroom apartment at a large complex. We were going to stay there until we could house hunt and find a new home. I then returned to Pittsburgh to wrap up the sale of the house and finish up some work. The moving van came on July 3 and took our Stuff, and I was left for a week sleeping on an air bed with no other furniture except a clip-on lamp and a tiny portable TV.

A week later, I arrived in Mpls to begin the new life. We settled into our cozy little apartment with three cats. Yes, cozy. The building we were in had 9 units, 6 that faced the garages, 6 that faced front. We faced the garage where our belongings were stored. Rather than pay a storage unit fee, we just stuffed everything into a garage. This is a pertinent fact for what happens later.

A week after I got in town, DH and I were out roller skating, came home about 7 PM and found fire trucks surrounding our apartment building. The top 3rd floor unit above ours was blazing away. We were on the ground floor. We could see our cats, pressed against the patio door, their eyes as big as saucers. Alarms were screaming, water was pouring into the building, and flames were shooting out. And my cats were inside.

I begged to go in and get them. Nope. No one allowed in. I pleaded. "They're right there. I can get them!" Nope. I have never felt so helpless, so angry, so worried.

After an hour or so, the blaze was under control. Another hour and the firemen told us we had 10 minutes to get into our apartments, grab what we wanted, then we had to leave. We raced inside. Water was about 3" deep and still gushing out of light sockets. Our cats literally ran to meet us, leapt into our arms, and clung to us. We stuffed them into cages, grabbed a litter box and cat food, tossed some clothes in a bag, grabbed our Important Papers, and got outside.

To what? We had 3 cats, and a car. It was now 10 at night and we had nowhere to stay. We'd been in town about 4 weeks. Didn't know anyone well enough to ask them to take in us and our pets.

That's when the Red Cross came through. We were then living in a far western suburb, mostly undeveloped (this was before Eden Prairie became 'civilized'). There was one motel, and they did not take pets. Well, the RC bullied the proprietor into taking us in. He had signed a deal with the RC to help out, and by God, he was going to help out. They gave us emergency supplies (toothbrush, shampoo, etc.) and one volunteer put us in touch with a vet, who made a motel-call to check the cats FOR FREE. God love him.

The next day we had to figure out where to live. We had 3 days paid in the motel and after that, we would be kicked out. To make a long story short, we ended up renting another unit in the apartment complex which was far, far more expensive because we had things in storage there and thus, we couldn't leave -- we had to stay at the complex or move our stuff.

So I supervised a move to another unit (DH had just started a new job and couldn't help). We ended up staying there 2 months, then bought a house right before the Halloween Blizzard when we got 3' of snow in 24 hours. We stayed there 8 months, then moved again. So I moved 4 times that year. And that's the move where my husband was in England, so I had to ...

Well, that's a story for another time. Suffice it to say, I support the Red Cross to this day because they came through for us, as they do for so many people. 


Jannine Gallant said...

Your poor little kitties, what a trama for them! I'm glad everything worked out, JL. Great story by the way - I was enthralled.

anny cook said...

GREAT story...I can see we could swap moving stories! The great disasters. Yep. Glad the RC came through for you!

Vonnie Davis said...

I can not imagine going through all that and still keeping my sanity. Bless the Red Cross for helping you. Oh my, just the thought of all you struggled with makes me want to reach out and hug you...and the kitties, too.

Isabella Macotte said...

Loved your post. So nice to read a personal success story like this and the true impact of a charitable organization like the Red Cross.

Jerri Hines said...

We all know that the Red Cross does amazing things. It's nice to hear a personal story. Perseverance!

J L said...

Now only did the RC help us, they helped the kitties, and THAT meant a lot to us. I can still remember sitting in that car with 3 cats in cages, the smell of smoke and stink in my hair, and an RC person leaned in and said, "Well, we need to find you folks a room tonight, don't we?" including my cats in "you folks".

Those are my kind of people!