Today is Monday, May 21, 2018

CA Fire Brought A Personal Miracle

by: Atty. Divina Gracia Lat-Barte

It was noontime of July 26, 2007, Atty. Nelia Martin and I bought our food for lunch at McDonalds, UN Avenue. We took our lunch at the mezzanine floor of Justice Edgardo F. Sundiam’s office. His Personal Secretary Ate Edna Cacacho and Manong Manny Ybanez, later joined us.

At around 1:00 in the afternoon, while Atty. Martin and I were having our usual chit-chat, we heard somebody shouting downstairs. I went down to check what the hullabaloos were all about and while I was descending the spiral stairs, someone shouted that we all have to leave the building because the chamber of Justice Sundiam was on fire and that the fire was already big. Through the smoked glass of the Justice’s door, I saw a flickering orange light. I immediately went up to the mezzanine floor to warn my other officemates about what I saw, got my bag and left the office with them. After getting my bag, I started hyperventilating and felt sudden contractions of my stomach as I am almost 7th months pregnant. The on-set of panic attack slowed me down from evacuating the office.

As I tried to descend the spiral staircase, thick, black smoke met me and caused difficulty in my breathing. It likewise blurred my vision. Out of fright, I was forced to retreat thinking that if I go on, I might be caught in the fire or lose consciousness and eventually pass out due to asphyxiation. I hobbled my way back to the mezzanine floor to catch my breath.

Suddenly the lights went off and the fire alarms rang. I shouted the names of my officemates for help but nobody answered. My heart pounded heavily as if I was having a heart attack. It was at this time that I resigned my fate to God. I prayed to Him that if it is His will for me to die, I am accepting my fate. I just prayed that He will take care of my two-year old son Jef and my husband Jobbie. I also prayed that the good Lord send a guardian angel to take care of me and my yet to be born baby, if we don’t make it.

A sudden sense of peace then overcame my anxieties. I darted past the dark mezzanine room and found myself in front of a small emergency exit window that was partly blocked by a bookshelf in one of the corners of the room. I groped for the latch, but was not successful. So, I slightly kicked the window and it miraculously opened. I know I did not move the bookshelf, but there I saw the justices downstairs who just got out of the Conference Room. My vision was hazy and I was gasping for air. I could not clearly see the people who shouted for me to “jump.” As told, I jumped and miraculously survived.

Now I live to tell the story of how I was saved and given a second life. To the Almighty God, who heard and answered my cries; to the heroes of my life who caught me as I jumped for safety (which later I found out to be Justice Mar Del Castillo, his driver Nilo, Justice Paul Brusselas, Justice Normandie Pizzaro, his Utility Aide Marlon Brando M. Quirino); to Ate Edna who waited and brought me out of the building; to Atty. Martin who brought me to the Manila Doctors Hospital; and, to all those who have in one way or the other prayed, helped and extended their concern for me and my baby, my profound thanks to all of you. May god bless us all.

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