From Marty McKellips, Chief Marketing Officer

It was pouring rain when I arrived at the fire scene on Knight’s Circle in East Austin Friday Morning.  Steve Hailey, our Emergency Services Director, and one volunteer were already there.  Steve briefed me on the tragic news that although six people were safe, one young man did not make it out alive.  He was 28.  His friends were gathered under the carport of the house next door where a number of them live.  I learned they were mostly young musicians in a band called Bankrupt and the Borrowers.  They lived and worked together, as a very close family would, and this was certainly a very difficult time for them.  
Just a few minutes later, our Disaster Action Team Captain Carole Leandra arrived and began talking to the clients about their immediate needs. Most of the residents had escaped the fire in only what they wore to bed the night before and the cold front combined with the rain was making everyone shiver.  Luckily, Jose Dominguez arrived quickly with blankets from the chapter.  I looked at those young faces and could not imagine how they were feeling.  The trauma of a fire is bad enough, but losing a dear friend is unimaginable.

We were all very relieved to see our fabulous mental health volunteer Pat Grajkowsky. Steve briefed her and she went into the house to talk to those grieving. 

Fire trucks came and went in shifts as the firefighters put out hot spots and began the investigation into the cause.  They were asking the survivors where any important and valuable items might be located.  Some instruments and amplifiers were retrieved but their cases were charred and I have no idea if they would still work.  The band had a sold out show scheduled for that evening and I wondered about the mood in the club when the news spread about this tragedy.

The news media were lined up across the street and I begin filling them in on what the Red Cross was providing.  My main message was that these services were being delivered by volunteers and we need more people to step up and help us help our neighbors. 

One young man stepped up to me and said, “I want to thank the Red Cross for everything.  I worked for the Red Cross during Katrina so I already knew how great you guys are.”  All I could say was how sorry we were for their loss.

Although this is a sad way to begin a Friday morning, I am glad I could be there.  It reminds me again of just how important the Red Cross is and why I am so lucky to be part of something that helps people everyday.
For more information about the fire and a memorial for Jon Pettis, please click here.

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