Justin Love was fast asleep in his Manhattan apartment when a blaring fire alarm woke him on an early October morning.
Hearing the sound of neighbors running back and forth, Love rose from his bed and opened the door to the living room, where he saw the light of flames outside the air shaft window. As the blaze began to emerge in another room, he fled to the fire escape, climbing down as bystanders yelled to him, “Fire! Fire! Get out! Get out!”
Minutes later, standing barefoot across the street with only his keys, phone and the clothes on his back, Love watched flames engulf the window of his apartment—his home of six years.
“I didn’t know what to do,” he said. “I was just standing there in shock.”
With nowhere to stay, Love was relieved to learn that American Red Cross volunteers were on the way to offer support.
“I don’t have any family here, and I’ve never been in a situation like this,” Love said. “No one on the street really offered anything—which I wouldn’t expect. But in my mind, I’m thinking, I don’t have any money. My phone is about to die. I didn’t have shoes on. Like what do I do?”
Upon arriving, Red Cross workers met with Love and other residents displaced from the building, helping to secure lodging and transportation to the hotel. In addition, they provided snacks and a debit card to help cover immediate needs, as well as emotional support.
In the following days, Love also met with a Red Cross caseworker to help determine his next steps and connect with available resources for his recovery.
“She’s actually very sweet, very nice, very understanding of the situation,” he said of the caseworker. “And also she was there [at the fire]…and remembered me.”
Grateful for the support, Love noted “how quick everything happens” for the Red Cross to deliver assistance.
“It’s not just like, OK, we’ll contact you in a couple of days. It’s extraordinary,” he added. “I don’t know what I would have done… Everyone’s been so great here, so thank you.”