Early in the morning on March 16, 2016, the sound of a smoke alarm rang through the Visitation Complex at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, waking up students to a unique situation. During a storm that night, lightning struck the building igniting the cupola on top of the residence hall.
Kayla Barnes, who was a resident advisor at the time of the fire, explained in an interview with the Dubuque Telegraph Herald how it was not uncommon for fire alarms to go off in the middle of night for reasons other than a fire. However, once she smelled the smoke, it was clear it was something much more serious.
"When we woke up to the alarms, I opened my door and just looked at the guys across the hall and we weren't really sure if it was real since we were on the first floor and couldn't smell the smoke," said sophomore Mason Tope. "When we got outside I saw the fire and ended up calling my buddy since he was just going to stay inside thinking it was a drill."
Luke Sedlacek, a first-year student, recalled the fire in an interview with the Dubuque Telegraph Herald, "It was pretty intense. I woke up to pounding on my door. I woke up to, 'Hey, get out, there's a fire.'"
All of the students were evacuated safely, but faced a new problem – what would happen next? Between fire and water damage, most of the students' belongings had been destroyed.
"After awhile, they moved us into a different room in Kane Hall and we were given a blanket and got to start talking to Red Cross people," said Tope. "They kept asking us if we needed anything and to make a list."
American Red Cross volunteers assisted displaced students by providing comfort kits filled with various hygiene products and some financial assistance to help meet the students' immediate needs.
To Tope this was something that was really meaningful in the recovery process, knowing that there were people he could talk to and who were willing to help after the fire.
"I was really grateful for the assistance of the American Red Cross," said Tope. "It was cool to see them as well as other community organizations to pull together and help in our time of need."