On December 31, Geneviève Gauvin was curling her six-year-old daughter’s hair for New Year’s Eve when she heard someone knock on the door, shouting for her to get out. The building was on fire!

“I unplugged the curling iron and we got out as fast as we could. We stood in the street in our pajamas, and Léonie cried when she saw all the police officers and firefighters. I was trying to stay calm and hide my panic by saying ‘Look at the big trucks!’,” Geneviève recalls vividly.

After several minutes filled with anxiety, her husband, Yannick, and Red Cross volunteers arrived at the scene.

“They set up shop in the RTC (Réseau de transport de la Capitale) buses with coffee, doughnuts and blankets, and asked us whether we had a place to sleep or needed anything else,” continues Geneviève.

The firefighters battled the intense blaze for around five hours before managing to quench the flames. They then let the tenants retrieve a few belongings from their apartments.

“We only had five minutes to grab the essentials. The stench was unbearable. We didn’t know when we would be back.”

gauvin_famille_460-(1).jpgIn the midst of all this, Yannick and Geneviève were particularly grateful they could rely on the Red Cross, which put them up in a hotel where they wouldn’t need to worry about food for two days. Surprisingly, even though Yannick’s niece worked for the Red Cross, they had never expected to receive assistance like this in Quebec.

“Nobody budgets for a fire! And when you’re struggling to cope with the situation, you feel really lucky to be taken care of by professionals who understand what you are going through. It takes a great weight off your shoulders,” explains Geneviève.

gauvin-fille-460.jpgOf course, getting through the days, weeks and months that follow a disaster is challenging, especially in the middle of the holidays!

“We still went to our family’s New Year’s Eve party, for the children. When I started to cry my sister-in-law’s arms, I had to explain to my daughter that it’s okay for adults to cry too. It was sinking in... the fire really had happened.”

Despite the stress and having to move into temporary accommodations, the children never stopped smiling and having fun. Léonie sometimes asked whether she would get all her toys back and Gabriel, aged 14, was a little worried in the beginning, but they coped well with all the changes.

Now that they have finally settled back into their apartment, the Gauvin-Tardif family is extremely grateful for the support of the Red Cross volunteers.