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South Napa Earthquake: Connie's Story

South Napa Earthquake: Connie's Story
Their love, strength and willingness brought smiles to many faces at the Red Cross shelter, including my own.

Can you imagine what it must be like to be the mother of three who just experienced an earthquake, but couldn’t tell if her children were crying out for her help? Or what if you were one of those children, knowing you couldn’t yell for your mom because she couldn’t hear you?

That’s what happened to Connie Lopez, her infant son, and her two older children when the 6.1M earthquake rocked Napa, California. Connie is deaf and communicates with her 8-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son using sign language.

“I met a family of four who melted my heart and the hearts of many others at the shelter this week,” said Pooja Trivedi. “I know their story is one I will remember for a long time.”

Pooja, Red Cross Communications Specialist from the Gateway to the Golden State Region (San Francisco), arrived at the Napa Red Cross Shelter at the Crosswalk Community Church hours after the earthquake. She met Connie and her children that day, and quickly learned their story:

In the early morning hours on Sunday, August 23, Connie and her three children were asleep on the first floor of their two-story home.

She and her son, Juan, were shaken awake by the earthquake. Instantly, they realized there were no disaster supplies downstairs. Connie, by now also focusing on one-month-old Raul and 8-year-old Adriana, called Juan to come close to her in the darkness and signed for him to go upstairs to get a flashlight.

Juan slowly climbed the stairs. He heard a loud creak. Arriving on the top floor, he moved quickly but cautiously to get what he needed. Using the flashlight to guide his steps back down the stairs, he realized that a crack ran from the floor to the top of the staircase. It was clear there would be nothing else retrieved from upstairs. The family was able to grab a few items from the first floor and flee. Their home was now uninhabitable.

Being deaf was no deterrent for this determined mother who is a brave, resourceful, and intelligent woman. The family made it safely to the shelter in Napa and quickly won everyone’s heart.

“Juan, who is only 16, did an amazing job translating everything that was taking place in the shelter or what anyone would say,” said Pooja, “ and when he and his mom were with the client caseworkers, he was on top of his game. He smiles a lot, but I could tell this was a traumatic experience for him.”

Adriana communicated flawlessly with her mother in sign language. She was a social butterfly with everyone else at the shelter. Obviously comfortable with people, she decided that her role, besides helping her mom with baby Raul, was to keep the volunteers at the intake desk on their toes.

Adriana was a delight, and truly lightened up what could have been a much grimmer day. Outspoken and lively, Adriana told whoever would listen that she was “glad we are all here together.”

“There are so many reasons why this family won my heart and the hearts of so many others,” said Pooja. “Their love, strength and willingness brought smiles to many faces at the Red Cross shelter, including my own.”

With Juan at her side and Adriana and Raul nearby, Connie is looking forward, working for a return to some kind of normalcy for the family, and will not let darkness, disaster, nor silence keep them down.

Learn more about Red Cross disaster relief.

See photos from the Red Cross shelter in Napa.