Life Since 10/17/2018

Posted: November 20, 2018 in Uncategorized
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Well hello Dambreaker Nation!!

I am finally able to return to a keyboard and computer where I am able to write this to you.

There’s plenty to talk about. So let’s start at the beginning, which is the 17th of October in 2018.

The attached image was taken from my cell phone on that day around approximately 4:00 in the morning on the 17th.  My apartment building was on fire.

I was awakened by the sounds of someone screaming “Fire! Fire! Fire! Fire! Fire! Fire!…” over and over again.

The first thing that I remember was that I could smell smoke. But I did not identify it s such. I thought that one of the neighbors was burning incense or something and it got out of hand. But that didn’t make sense at 4:00 in the morning.

As I opened my eyes, my window was just filled with a bright orange glow. Something was in fact, on fire.

I got up and went to the window and looked out, expecting to see the apartments on the other side of the fence burning. But I saw nothing but darkness. Then I looked up above and saw more of the orange glow. The neighboring building was not on fire…. I WAS ON FIRE.

I ran for my desk and quickly had to make a decision on what was most important and vital for me to take with me. Keys, wallet, cell phone, rings, cash, coins, etc. Thankfully these items were all in the same spot.

My wheelchair did not have the foot rests attached so I reached for them in the dark, the smell of smoke was becoming more and more apparent.

But I could not see in the dark what I was doing. My next thought was to quickly turn on the light to see. However, as I turned I noticed another bright glow from the ceiling inside of the air conditioning vent. Inside the vent in the ceiling was in flames.

It was at that point that I had decided to abandon everything else and get the hell out before something serious happened.

As I approached the front door, I felt around to see if it was hot. When I realized it was safe to exit, I opened the door slowly and was met by much more fire and smoke. Once I opened the door, I went as fast as I could to get away from the building. And in the process of it all, I felt and heard snapping noises from beneath my wheelchair.

The frame broke.

The neighbors began to pour out onto the sidewalks and I noticed that it was starting to rain. I thought to myself: “Great! From fire to water!!”

The fire department and the police department was swarming all over the property. A police officer made the suggestion that we leave the area because the smoke was about to get worse.

A school bus was sent to pick up the neighbors and I and take us to a local high school gymnasium in order for us to get away from the area and out of the rain.

There are eight apartment units in each building here at SGC. With the exception of two buildings. In the building where I was, there was one unit vacant due to a move out, leaving seven residents living in that building. Four people with walkers and three wheelchairs.

ALL SEVEN OF US GOT OUT WITHOUT INJURY!

The displaced sat inside that gymnasium for just under an hour before they brought us back to the property and placed us inside of the community building where the offices are. It was a mad house but at least we were back.

The apartment manager made some phone calls for those of us who were displaced. My sister and brother were called.

Within the next hour, my sister arrived to SGC. She was ready and willing to help out with the immediate needs. By then I was mentally gone.

I remained inside the community building with only one thought running in my head, “I need a place to stay. How the hell am I going to pay for it??”

The American Red Cross was there and they gave some aid to the displaced. It was not a lot, but it was more than what I had before now that I had lost everything to the fire.

I am thankful for my sister and her efforts to help me. Especially during those first few days. She and her son was in a fender bender the month before and it seemed like their situation was just as bad in their declined health. But she came out to help me.

My brother in Georgia jumped into action as well. Making phone calls and talking with connections to see if he could help in some way.

By the end of the day on the 17th, I still had no idea where I was going to go. The apartment complex just kept asking if I found a place to stay. And I just had to ask them for help.

I was going to use the funds that were donated by the American Red Cross for a hotel for the night, but after that I had no idea where I was going to end up. The social worker found a hotel and tried to use the funds but it was refused. So the apartment complex used a corporate card and paid for the first night of hotel. My brother paid for a second night. It is the one and only time that management paid for a room.

My sister taught me how to connect the Wi-Fi to my cell phone. Thankfully it has been free. So it is a struggling and learning process to figure out how to remain on the Internet with a cell phone.

Nobody who was displaced had insurance. The fire was determined to be an electrical problem in the roof.

During the day, I had people reaching out to me asking questions and what not. And one of the local bands here in Austin, whom I cherish and love so much, created a GoFundMe account. And it was shared around the Internet those first few days.

Those first few days were brutal. But today, is just a memory of hardship. I stayed in the hotel for a few more days after that. But after paying over $325 (before taxes) for just three nights, I knew that I needed to find some place else to stay.

The GoFundMe account has really saved me. I am so thankful for each and every person who decided to donate.

I left the hotel and my sister and I went hunting for something more affordable. Something that I could do from week to week. We went all over Austin and couldn’t find much.

After a reservation finally was made, we went to the front lobby and immediately was met by a woman who said that they had NO ground floor rooms available and there was no elevator on the property.

But eventually, we found a place to stay which had much more room and was on the ground floor. And I have been there since. And I will remain there.

In the meantime, my sister has given me help in transportation so I could find a more permanent place to stay. I have applied everywhere in Austin. But it is all the same. There is a waiting list. And those lists are usually six months up to three years.

Eventually I was told that there was a place willing to open their doors to those of us still displaced. However there is a massive pile of red tape and paperwork ahead and I just don’t have any idea when this opportunity is going to open up.

It would be nice as far as the social life is concerned as it is only about a mile away from the downtown area. And I could stay there until SGC rebuilds. The word on the street is “six months” but nobody believes that time frame. Everyone has their own theory that the rebuild will take about a year.

In the meantime on the day that I am writing this. It has been 34 days since the fire. I’ve been blessed to be able to get out of the hotel and still see live music. However taxis are super expensive. So I have to really pick and choose who I want to see.

I find it necessary to go because of my own mental state, which is shot by now. So it provides me with a distraction from this awful situation. AND…… it is important that others see me at their shows, so that they know that I am still alive and unharmed.

But I can’t afford to go to every show that I had originally put on the calendar to attend before the fire.

This morning I jumped on a city bus and returned to SGC because they are having a Thanksgiving meal. This is usually the only opportunity that I have to do something for the holiday. Usually November and December holidays are just another day.

So I arrived early and had some coffee, spoke to some of the neighbors, and sure enough the gossiping still thrives around here! As if I should have been expecting that.

Today, Day 34 since the fire, I have learned that out of the seven people who are displaced. Two people have left the area and found a place to live. Three people remain to displaced (including myself).

And to my surprise the remaining two residents displaced have been moved into other apartment units that were vacant at the time of the fire.

I am pissed!

Like…. SUPER pissed off!! But I am trying to hold it together because I don’t know just how these two residents were selected to stay here and how the others were left to fend for themselves. I don’t know and I don’t get it. And that is frustrating. Why them and not me? And so on.

While I am back in the neighborhood, I’ll stop by the stores and markets to help myself out as much as I can.

But because there’s no ending in sight, it is a massive struggle so I have included the GoFundMe page below. I hope that the URL works.

I only ask that if you cannot donate that you share the campaign as much as possible. This campaign is the only thing that is keeping me afloat. Nobody else is giving aid. I fear that because nobody wants to talk or give answers as to what’s going on in the near future, that if those funds run out that I will be in deep trouble.

The GoFundMe account is keeping a roof over my head and a bed to sleep in. And sometimes food in my stomach.

Not knowing is the worst part. I have to have faith that the light at the end of the tunnel will soon be brighter. I’m doing my best to stay living in Austin, Texas for the time being until this situation gets corrected.

I know that this will come to an end eventually. However once I get out of the hotel and into a place more long term, I’m going in there with literally NOTHING. And I am going to have to start over again.

It still is true today since I started saying it on day one. I am not in any position to say no to anyone who wishes to help.

 

GoFundMe Campaign

PayPal: send funds to the e-mail address:
joelhaskell@hotmail.com

 

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