appointment. However, before he stepped off the
train, the victim made her way to Kotto to thank
him personally, he says.
“It was really nice, because all the passengers on
the train cheered and applauded,” Kotto says.
Neighbor rescues fire victim
Ryan Bird (above)
ON JANUARY 25, 2013, electrician Ryan Bird had just arrived home with his wife, Tracy, and
daughter, Payton, when he heard what sounded like
a residential smoke alarm. Approaching his neighbor’s home, he saw smoke and the glow of a fire.
While beating on the window, he called his daughter
and she alerted her mother to call 911. Meanwhile,
the elderly woman inside was deliriously trying to
extinguish a trail of fire on the floor from her kitchen
to her living room with her bare feet.
The woman made several attempts to open the
door, but couldn’t manage to unlock it. Bird realized
he needed to get in speedily when her foot became
engulfed in flames.
“When I saw her catch fire I knew right then
and there if I didn’t do something I would watch this
woman die and I couldn’t live with myself,” Bird
says. “She was going to burn to death.”
Bird, 41, ran to the back door, which was locked
by only a chain, and broke the door open. He helped
the woman out of her house and had his wife and
daughter watch over her while he ran back in to stop
the flames from spreading. He grabbed some scrap
pieces of carpet and smothered the trail of fire, and
was relieved when the fire department arrived. Bird
later found out another neighbor had checked on
the elderly woman two weeks prior and installed
new smoke detectors when he saw that hers were
not working correctly.
“I think that’s pretty important, because without
that the house would be gone and she would definitely be gone,” Bird says.
Full-time volunteer pays it back
Claudia Kelly (page 33)
WHEN MOST PEOPLE were evacuating their homes on Long Island, New York, in preparation for Hurricane Sandy at the end of October
2012, Claudia Kelly left the safety of her home in
Medina, Minnesota, to fly into the eye of the storm.
“Sandy was pretty scary because you heard it
was going to be horrible, and I was [going to be] on
an island,” says Kelly, a volunteer regional casework
lead and client casework manager for the American
Red Cross, who was called upon to set up a shelter
before the super storm struck.
Kelly, 52, has been volunteering with the Red
Cross for more than seven years by responding to
disasters, assisting with client recovery, and teaching
classes, since retiring from a career in market
research. She makes herself available to be deployed
at any time on any day for national or local emergencies that can lead to months of service over multiple deployments.
Arriving just before Hurricane Sandy hit, Kelly
spent four months in New York spread out over
three deployments to aid in the recovery efforts,
which continued throughout power outages caused
by the storm. The shelters provide cots, food and the
resources to help people get back on track, but most
importantly they provide a sense of unity, she says.
“People came to the shelter in part for commu-
nity, to be with other people,” Kelly says. “They
came for companionship.”
Kelly’s reason for volunteering with the Red
Cross couldn’t be more personal. When Kelly’s aunt
Ruth Margot De Wilde left an Auschwitz concen-
tration camp after World War II as a war refugee,
her husband had died and her home had been
destroyed, and the Netherlands Red Cross helped in
her resettlement. “The Red Cross assisted her in
recovery,” Kelly says. “They found her a home and
helped her refurnish, and that’s exactly the work that
I do and my role, and knowing that makes it so
rewarding for me, and I can help pay it back.”
The Red Cross also helped her aunt to find her
sibling, Kelly’s father, Peter Ralph Lustig, who was
serving in the Canadian military. “I think it just goes
to show the Red Cross is there for everyone,” Kelly
says. “They did not know how to find each other,
and the Red Cross reunited them.”
Being a disaster responder has taught Kelly to
have an appreciation for everything she has, because
everything can be gone in an instant.
“I’m really impressed with the resilience of people who have lost everything,” she says. “You hear
this, ‘We’re all alive and we all got out and that’s
what’s important,’ and that’s what stays with you.” C
“When I saw
her catch fire
I knew right
then and there
if I didn’t do
I would watch
die and I
Ryan, Payton (center) and Tracy
Bird proved to be instrumental in
their neighbor’s rescue.
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 33