Keyona Gardner is one of roughly 200 people displaced by a massive fire in the 1300 block of Peabody Street in Northeast, D.C.
She lived with her 5-year-old daughter and elderly mom in a third floor unit, which is on the top floor and is the first area affected by the fire.
“What if I was asleep?” Gardner said through tears. It’s a question she has asked her self over and over.
At about 2:30 a.m., she was watching a movie when she smelled smoke.
“And I go in the hallway, and it’s just smoldering smoke,” she said.
She grabbed her daughter, yelled for her mom and the three of them made a move for the stairwell.
But Gardner struggled to see the path ahead, so she counted the stairs, a game her and her daughter liked to play. The counting helped guide them. Her mom was not far behind.
“Memories, memories, memories” is all Gardner said she could see when she looked back at the burning building.
Her family has lived in the apartment for nearly 40 years. Her mom was the unit’s original matriarch.
Peabody St still have heavy fire in attic & several top floor Apts. aggressive firefight continues. Rescues complete. pic.twitter.com/UE4xNP57R4— DC Fire and EMS (@dcfireems) June 24, 2017
Now, except for her keys, wallet, and what she had on her back, everything she owned is gone. But her family remains intact.
“And that’s the only thing that’s keeping me smiling,” Gardner said. “Because I say to myself, ‘What if I was asleep? What if I was asleep?’”
Gardner believes the answer to that question is that neither she, her daughter, nor her mom would be with us today. As for what’s next, Gardner’s not sure. The Emery Heights Community Center will serve as their temporary home, along with about 140 other people displaced by the fire.