Through Fire & COVID-19 : The Rabago-Rodriguez Story

Hello my friends. Today I have the most amazingly well written, heart wrenching, inspiring story to share with you all. I am so grateful to have been sent what you are about to read in a Christmas card. This story is truly a testament of overcoming tragedy and finding the good in the worst situation imaginable. The amount of strength and faith this family has inspires me to level up my life and mindset in so many ways.

I have known Sylvia Rabago for well over a decade now. We graduated from Wyalusing High School together. I have to be honest, we weren't super close but always friendly. Sylvia was always happy and smiling every time I had any kind of encounter with her. Which wasn't often, she was very smart and in all the smart classes. I on the other hand, was not. I always remember her having he best sense of humor and laughing whenever I saw her. She has always been kind.

My first book was published in 2018. I was so grateful that I had so much support and pre-orders to get it published and really honored that so many of my high school friends had taken an interest in my story. Sylvia was one of the pre-orders that helped make my dream a reality. Also, one of the 110 copies that got lost in transit that I had to pay to replace. She was so patient. I finally replaced her copy and dropped it off in her mailbox and hadn't really heard much or spoken to her since.

When I heard of her home burning to the ground I fully intended on helping in anyway I could. I wanted to collect donations or do something for her family. My heart broke for them and could not imagine what they had gone through. But, I regret to inform you that I didn't do anything. I was very pregnant in my third trimester and having a very hard last few weeks, my husband was leaving for the air-force, I had to pack up and move our apartment into storage. It's no excuse but I failed to do anything, until now.

The week of Christmas I received a message from Sylvia asking for my address so she could send me a Christmas card. I thought, "What the hell. Didn't her house just burn down? And she is sending Christmas cards to people? I didn't even get Christmas cards out! She is truly amazing!" I asked how she was doing and she said she was doing good. Never once mentioned her home or anything going on. She actually asked me how Bria and I were doing and wanted to know if we would be spending Christmas with my father. She's basically a saint. And then Brutus slobbered all over Bria and she had a dirty diaper and started crying and in 10 minutes I had forgotten all about the exchange with Sylvia.

I opened this beautiful Christmas card on New Years Day. It was just a few hours after I had a complete and total meltdown because I had missed my husbands weekly call from Basic Military Training. He only gets one call per week and I did not have cell service out at my fathers. I am unsure why he didn't call there but he didn't and I was absolutely devastated. I miss him so much and the thought of having to go another week without hearing his voice was unbearable to me. Inside the envelope there was a lengthly letter that sucked me in instantly and had me crying and rejoicing by the end. It was such a message to me to snap out of it and be grateful my husband is safe and doing what he is doing for our family. It brought me an insane amount of gratitude for having the home and things I do. If this family can survive and conquer what they faced in 2020 and remain grateful and hopeful, we all can. I know there is a lot of turmoil going on in the world right now, I think we all can benefit from some faith and hope.

Below is the beautifully written Christmas letter from Sylvia sharing her story of tragedy to triumph:

"Merry Christmas Everyone,

Well to say 2020 was a bad year would be an understatement. The Rabago-Rodriguez Family has had a rough few years and it seems to only get worse and worse. Just when we think things are going our way we get another blow. Our parents have always taught us to help others in need any chance that you can get which is why Gabriel and I were drawn to each other. Gabriel is from Honduras so he did not come from a family with a lot of money however they always stop and help someone in need no matter what is in their plans or if they spend their last dime and won’t have enough for their next meal. My parents raised me the same way helping others in need whenever we were fortunate to do so trusting that God will provide for us… And God has never let us down. Even in the most recent setbacks that we have encountered these past few years we have never been without food, shelter, or love.

We have had a lot of deaths in our families these past few years to include my Paternal Grandfather Alex Rabago, followed by my Maternal Grandmother Hilda Rosa Garcia Caballero who lived in Colombia, Mother in law Ma Adigna Orellana who lived in Honduras at only 50 years young leaving 13 children the youngest at only 7 years old as well as 3 grandchildren at the time. My Tia (Aunt) Jaqueline was murdered in her driveway last year November 19,2019 in Albuquerque NM at 55 years young, and my Brother Alex Rabago passed this year in Panama at 36 years young for reasons unbeknownst to us. Gabriel’s brothers Olvin and Gerson were in a near death motorcycle accident this year in Honduras as well that required $20,000.00 in Olvin’s hospital bills. In Honduras Doctors attend to you if they know that you have the money to pay. Most all hospitals wanted to cut Olvin’s leg off knowing they are a poor family unlikely to have the money to pay. Gabriel wanted to do everything possible to find the money to save Olvin’s leg, since Olvin was otherwise a strong, healthy new father at 25 years old. Olvin was on his way home after work when a car hit him sending Gerson flying off the bike and Olvin pinned under the wheel. Instead of seeing if Olvin was okay the driver fled the scene. I was a mess to say the least, I thought this was the last straw that would break our back. I cried to my parents and pastor not knowing what to do, not knowing where to find the money a young couple just starting out with 2 kids and taking in 5 more dependents of course we did not have $20,000 to our name, let alone $20,000 extra cash to donate. Thankfully Gabriel’s cousin Nelli who is a Nurse vouged for us and told the Surgeon that she would be responsible for the bill if we were unable to pay knowing that we would or better, yet God would help us find a way. The surgery was done to save Olvin’s leg we had immediately sent $6000.00 which is all we had, and we did not question the decision at all we knew it had to be done. The Surgeon wanted $10,000.00 more before he released Olvin from the Hospital but of course he was going to charge each additional day that Olvin stayed in the hospital waiting for money. I was devastated but I could not just wait around. I spoke with my Pastor at Sts. Peter and Paul Church to see if he would allow us to sell Latin food to the church and our community to help pay Olvin’s medical bills. Much to our surprise our Community loves Hispanic Food and Loves even more to help a family in need. We received so much help it was truly a God sent we were able to raise enough to get him out of the hospital and almost completely pay his surgery. Again, we felt a little relief and able to tackle this hard world of ours. We decided that with the help we received we were able to hire an Immigration Lawyer to help Maylin Rodriguez, Gabriel’s 17 yr. cousin who came to live with us just a year ago. Then Veronica and Edduin (Gabriel’s Brother and wife) who live with us as dependents welcomed their second child into the world October 26, 2020 six weeks early. Their baby girl Digna Esperanza was in NICU, so I helped being on call as translator since Veronica and Edduin do not speak English and helped transport them to visit their baby girl once they were not allowed to stay with her (leaving me out of work for 2 weeks). Gabriel was also at a standstill with his quarry not having any work. Once Digna was allowed to come home I returned to work a whole 2 days before our House and everything we worked so hard for burned and disappeared in a matter of seconds.

I had worked Friday November 13 and arrived home about 12:30 am November 14 to find our home especially clean, beautiful, and perfect. The kitchen was perfectly cleaned not a crumb on the floor. Nothing was left out no food or toys; In a home with 9 people 5 kids this is a truly rare view. We had even decorated for Christmas as a family just days before, singing Christmas carols and dancing in the living room. Decorating the tree with memorable ornaments of milestones in our life, First Christmas 2014 after Gabriel and I got married, expecting ornament for Hector, then a bear family with Hector and pregnant with Sergio, Baby’s first Christmas and the precious snow globe ornament that Hector made in Preschool last year. I felt especially proud and calm not knowing that this would be the last time that I would see my home this way. I was surprised to find my brother-in-law Edduin and my Husband awake watching TV in the living room waiting up for me. It was just an indescribable moment, as if time had frozen in that moment as I looked in detail at my home. I took a shower and laid out my clothes for the next day because my Mom and I had plans to go to Vestal, NY and do some Christmas Shopping. I set my alarm for 5:30 am and finally laid down to sleep about 1 am. I went to bed in just a Cami I wanted my clothes to be very fresh in the morning. I woke up hearing glass being thrown, and this is odd because I am an extremely heavy sleeper. Gabriel is the light sleeper who wakes up to our son Sergio’s change of breathing. I on the other hand sleep through Sergio jumping on my back. So anyway, I am awake and Gabriel is sound asleep. I ask Gabriel, “What is that noise? Gabriel Did you call the Northern Tier waste facility to get the junk on the side of the house?” Still no answer not even acknowledgement that I was speaking. I literally shove him out of bed and say, “GABRIEL GO CHECK WHAT THAT NOISE IS!” There was no heat or smoke in our room it just sounded like glass and garbage was being thrown. Now confident that Gabriel was checking on the noise I drifted back to sleep still not knowing what time it was. According to Gabriel he had walked to the kitchen and saw fire. He found that the fire started in the wiring behind the refrigerator, broke the glass behind the refrigerator and began melting the plastic insulation. He tried to control the fire and even extinguish it but realized it was already out of control and there was no saving the house. He thought to open the kitchen door but was immediately internally shook and stopped in his tracks. We truly believe God was helping each and everyone of us to exit the burning home. If Gabriel were to open the kitchen door the house would have gotten a gust of wind and burned down even faster. Gabriel came back out of breath and said “SYLVIA, THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE WE NEED TO GET OUT” he came back to the room as I was looking for pants and said “The Baby! We have to get the Baby! I will never forgive myself if anything were to happen to that Baby Girl” I said, “It’s Ok I will get her!” I put on my pants and go to run upstairs to wake the others. What came to mind was the STUPID FIREPLACE and OH NO! DAD IS GOING TO KILL US. I ran towards the kitchen and was stopped in my tracks at the edge of the kitchen to an orange hue I jumped back and froze. I began spinning in circles in a daze not knowing what to do. Gabriel who already inhaled a lot of smoke in the kitchen trying to put the fire out and already processed what was happening was looking for a way out. It occurred to me to scream and wake the others who may have still been sleeping. I yelled in Spanish “WAKE UP, THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE!” Gabriel yelled at me “GET THE KIDS AND GET OUT!” Once I yelled Hector and Sergio woke up, Hector yelled “MAMA!” and Sergio started crying they both came to me and held me. Gabriel again yelled “GET OUT!” I said, “I don’t know how to get out” He said “The Basement!” I, being scared of the dark and not in the right state of mind tried to turn on the light because I couldn’t. Smoke began to enter the living room where we were. Gabriel had already gone to the basement checking the surroundings to get us out. Gabriel reached up and snatched Sergio from my arms and left. I knew I had to follow any way possible. I felt with my feet blindly leading Hector down the stairs. Gabriel dropped Sergio to safety by the basement door to find Hector and I and lead us out as well. This is when we heard Maylin scream “MAMA, HELP ME, HELP!” I said “Gabriel, Maylin!” He said, “I need to get you guys out first, I will get them next.” Gabriel plowed through the basement doors and led us to safety. I grabbed Sergio on my hip and held Hector’s hand to run across the street to my parents’ house. As we exited the basement, I see Maylin outside laying on the grass in pain begging for help. I said “Maylin I will take the boys over then help you okay, I will be back.” With the adrenaline that was flowing though us, we were not bothered by the soggy grass, gravel in the driveway or chill November air. I threw my parents front door open and yelled in my already very dry and raspy voice “HELP! HELP! OUR HOUSE IS ON FIRE!”. My Dad jumped out of bed electrified by those dreaded words. He ran out the door and ran back saying “Someone Needs to call the fire department” My Mom woke up and turned the light as I dropped the kids on her bed and left to help others across the street. Gabriel had already gone to the back of the house looking for a ladder to get the baby out of the house, but the entire back of the house was crackling in the fire. He returned to the window and Screamed to Veronica and Edduin “THROW, THE BABY!” Both Veronica and Edduin said “No, she is not strong enough to hold her head”. Edduin lowered a kicking and scared 3-year-old Gonzalo out the window yelling “Stay Still, Stay Still!” Edduin had lowered Gonzalo out of the window just enough for Gabriel to reach and lower to the ground. Gonzalo later stated as he recounts the events of this night that “I was scared, My Daddy hold my hands out the window and Tio Gabi catch me, I got on the grass and I was scared I didn’t know whether to go with Maylin to Abuelas house or wait for my Mommy. I couldn’t save my Mommy” Maylin had managed to overcome her pain enough to get up and help Gonzalo across the street. When I returned across the street Maylin and Gonzalo where halfway to Abuelas. Maylin cries to me “Mama, I’m in pain, it hurts!” I said “Maylin you have to make it to Abuelas ok, you did a great job now go rest at Abuelas.” When I arrived Edduin was lowering his newborn baby in a thick big blanket down to Gabriel. Gabriel so happy this little princess was safe, and sound held her to the sky as if he was holding something Holy and unworthy for him to touch. The expression on his face was as a little boy who has given his mot desired dream. I was sucked into this feeling and I too held her up giving thanks to God & quickly snapped back into reality of our burning home and people still in it. I raced back across the street with a little baby “football” tucked in the elbow of my arm and my other arm out like a football player ready to defeat anything that got in my way. Mud squishing in my feet, gravel stuck in my toes I ran in the house and passed this treasure to my Mom who was already anticipating her arrival. By this time, Mom had the 3 boys on her bed watching cartoons. All three knew something was not right, Hector and Gonzalo are old enough to know and retell their stories of what happened that morning. Sergio stared in confusion but was comforted by Hector and Gonzalo. We may never know what his experience was like, only time will tell. Maylin was sent to the bathroom to calm down and clean her blackened face.

I went to the laundry room to yell to my brother Patrick who lived in my parent’s basement “PATRICK! PATRICK HELP OUR HOUSE IS ON FIRE!” I ran back outside, and Veronica was limping across the street also barefoot and without a shirt. I helped her inside and shortly after Edduin and Gabriel were at my Parents house it was 2:38 am. I went and hugged everyone as if we had not seen each other in decades just glad that we all miraculously made it out in time. Although these were all good things I was fuming. I could not see very well my contacts and glasses were lost in the fire so just staring at the orange glow engulfing our humble home just angered me. After all that we have been through over the last few years to still adjusting to the struggles of caring for a preemie baby and still paying off Olvin’s hospital bill we are now found homeless losing EVERYTHING that we have worked so hard for. I yelled in anger, “WHEN ARE WE FINALLY GOING TO GET A BREAK!” I was seeing Red. I wanted to fight! My Mom grabbed me restraining me an unruly boxer not going to back down, rubbing my head and speaking words of comfort until I morphed into her little tiny infant baby looking to her to take care of me, to take care of us. I am in my Mother’s arms crying in anger as she calms me down and says “You all got out, that is what matters. Can you imagine if we lost one of you in the fire? I could not imagine another funeral with one of you not being in our lives. Thank God you all got out safely” I went inside to try and forget my house was no more. I heard people tell their own version of their story until the fire department and ambulance came to check Maylin’s injuries. After some questioning, they quickly and carefully put a neck brace on her and asked if Mom was coming with her. Yes of course I wanted to go but remember I did not have any underwear on, no bra, no socks, or shoes. I only had a white cami and my mint green scrubs from the night before. So, blind as a bat, I walked around seeing if anyone had something for me to cover up and go to the hospital with Maylin. I took Gabriel’s shower slides, and his phone since all the other phones and shoes were left in the house, I forced my Dad’s worn white undershirt over my Cami and found a jacket in the closet to try and cover myself a bit and off we went with the little that we had.

Maylin recounted her Story of the fire to explain how her injuries occurred. Maylin awoke to a loud crash and thought it was just a thunderstorm or Mama making a lot of noise washing clothes. She tried going back to sleep but was uncomfortably hot and began to see smoke come from underneath her door. It was then that she realized this was not a normal night/morning. In a panic Maylin opened the door to see what was happening and a gust of smoke invaded her room. She immediately shut it and began to panic. The thick black smoke attacked her, filled her lungs, and almost defeated her. Maylin began to be overwhelmed and sleepy, she started to pray “God, Oh God, please help me, don’t let me die in here please get me out alive!” Maylin stood back up and headed back to the door ready to throw herself down the stairs “to safety” a voice whispered to her “No…The window”. She trusted this voice and ran to the window to just get some air and scream for help. She did not hear any reply or anyone in the house for that matter and began thinking that everyone had already gotten out to safety and she was left to fend for herself. With ease she ripped the curtain away from the window and punched her way to fresh air and her escape. God was the voice that was guiding her and the strength that helped her open that window. Maylin slowly crawled out the window feet first then hanging on the sill with her fingers and facing the house and without a thought dropped to the ground. She landed on her feet and with the momentum continued backwards onto the well pump head and screamed in Pain. This scream is when I heard her in the basement. The sounds of the flames and breaking glass was so loud that we could not hear each other. Veronica later states that she did hear me scream but did not know what I was saying.

Veronica was the first to wake up in her room. She woke up suddenly and thought there was an earthquake because the house was trembling. Within seconds she could hear the roaring of the flames and exclaimed “The house is on fire we need to get out” Veronica jolts Edduin out of bed “nearly taking out my liver!” Edduin recalls. After recovering, Edduin hears glass break and figures that the living room fan gave in and fell. “The way Maylin walks, jumps and dances in her room it is a miracle it has not fallen already”. Veronica hears me scream and her belly sinks at the thought of what may have happened to me or one of the kids. Edduin rushes to the door to see what he could do to help. What he did not know was that there was a wall of hot black smoke waiting to plow him over burning his face and the top of his hair. Edduin shuts the door and yells to Veronica “open the window” but she had already torn the curtain off and was ripping through the plastic insulation. The room began to fill with a thick black smoke, making the room feel as it was getting smaller they were being choked as their lungs filled with toxic smoke. Veronica now unable to breathe, punches through the window, grabs 2 week old preemie baby Digna so they could both get some fresh air. At this same time Edduin is breaking through the other window and realizes it is too high for a safe jump and decides to join Veronica in some fresh air with their 3 year old son Gonzalo. After getting a breath of fresh air they see the big red basement doors burst open and 4 people escaping our worst nightmare. They look to the left of the window and see Maylin has also escaped they are relieved that they were the only ones left to escape. After Veronica and Edduin told Gabriel that they would not throw their baby he disappeared to the back of the house. Maylin Screamed “Edduin, Vero, Gabi Please Help me! I can’t walk my back hurts!”. Still fighting to breathe Edduin Screams “Calm down you have already escaped the fire you are safe outside” Gabriel returns unable to find a ladder, and sees that Edduin has 3 year old Gonzalo by his arms lowering him out the window. Gonzalo is angry and scared kicking and screaming “I’m Scared, I’m Scared!” Edduin yells “STOP, BE STILL” Gabriel reached up until he could feel Gonzalo’s toe and in confidence he says “Let him go”. At this moment Veronica is trying to figure out how to wrap Digna in their blanket to safely lower her down out the window. Veronica could see something white foaming out of Digna’s mouth and her heart sank thinking she had lost her baby girl. This was not her first death scare with Digna; When she was just a few weeks pregnant she began to bleed heavily and thought she lost her miracle baby, her baby was born 6 weeks early and battled through NICU to come home and live through a fire. Digna Esperanza is a perfect fit because she truly is Hope/Esperanza. Only being 2 weeks old she has overcome so much. She told Edduin “The baby is vomiting!” Edduin says “Pass her to me” grabbed the blanket and both Edduin and Vero start to fold the blanket to lay her safely inside. They grabbed the ends of the blanket and placed Digna inside praying that she would be safe and the she was still alive. As she was being lowered the end of the blanket that Veronica had slipped from her hands! Gabriel screamed “No le vayan a dejar caer, que no me lo voy a perdonar” which translates Do not let her fall because I will not forgive myself. Gabriel sees the tip of the blanket fall and immediately throws it back to Veronica. Veronica is merely a shell already mourning the death of her daughter fighting back tears. God however works through her and catches the end of the blanket. When Gabi could feel Digna in his hands he says “Let her go, I have her”. Vero snaps back into action remembering the diaper bag in the corner of the crib. She retracts inside the room and blindly grabs the bag. Edduin terrified yells “Mi Amor, ya no ya no bajese” (My love, no more, no more get out). Veronica throws the diaper bag out and hurries out the window. Neither one of them could breathe and she knew Edduin was in really bad condition. She knew that his lungs were entirely filled with smoke when he opened the door and was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to make it out safely if he helped Veronica out of the window too. She was not taking any chances of that so she escaped the window in seconds not worrying if someone was able to lower or catch her. My Dad sees the red basement doors open and swiftly closes them so there was no chances that Veronica or Gabriel fall on the unforgiving rock steps. Gabriel is able to break her fall but both suffered minor bruises and sores. Edduin is distracted as he finds a rag, blanket anything to breathe into. With a few more seconds to breathe Edduin looks up and sees he is the only one left his wife has jumped to safety. Edduin also hangs from the window and feels flames reach out from above his head. Gabriel reaches up and grabs his legs as Edduin climbs down grabbing the grooves in the vinyl siding. My Brother Patrick states it looked like an acrobatic circus act as Gabriel balanced Edduin on his hands. Not even one second from escaping the burning home flames engulfed the entire home and collapsed. As soon as Veronica reached the ground she limped inside ignoring anyone in her path just wanting to see if Digna was alive or not. Mom must have seen the worry and determination in her face she immediately said “Calm down Veronica all the children are fine”. Gabriel and Edduin made it to Mom’s house to check on everyone then left to try and rescue cars with my Dad.

All 9 of us escaped the house in minutes not one second was to be lost and we did this with the help of God. God was with us every step of the way.

Anyway, back on track with Maylin in the ambulance. We were headed to Robert Packer Hospital back to where I was just 3 hours ago. Maylin was so scared and nervous worried that she would no longer walk again. I said Maylin “You are alive, that is all that matters! God saved each and every one of us it does not matter how you leave that hospital you are alive and well.” I looked out the window trying to figure out where we were but I began to feel sea sick as the ambulance hit every bump and blurs of lights swished by. I was still very angry, thinking of everything we lost our sofa, all the Christmas decorations we put up and all the other decorations we were planning on putting up as well as all our babies memories. I couldn’t dwell on what made me sad because Maylin needed me. She needed to hear how brave she was, that she did the right thing in jumping. If when Edduin was hanging from the ledge flames stretched out over his head as he escaped there was not enough time to rescue everyone had she not jumped out the window. If she had not stopped to pray and ask for help she may have fainted and we may have not been able to reach her. A million “What if” questions flooded our heads. Someone would have rescued Maylin but the outcome may have been different. Perhaps some of us would have suffered more severe burns. I shushed her and rubbed her head telling her to relax and pray. I assured her the hospital was going to make things better not worse. We finally arrived and were greeted and surrounded by the Trauma team. Maylin gasped at the sight of giant scissors coming towards her body. I let her know that her clothes were going to be cut off and everything was ok. Everyone in the room was there to help and to make her feel better. The professional team quickly examined her for marks, bruises, and any external harm, took her vitals, xrays and made plans for CAT scan and MRI. We were separated for a few minutes as she went for her scans. Left alone only let my brain remember… remember the glow of the flames, imagine life without our beautiful babies, imagine life without my Husband or any of us in the home. Imagine what it would have been like for my parents to lose yet another child and grandchildren. Tears flowed down my face, I had a chance to feel, I didn’t have to be strong in this very moment. I felt numb, I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know what was next. Shortly after Maylin was wheeled back into the room and it was back to being strong and brave. A few hours at the hospital, we were told Maylin did not have any broken bones or punctured organs which was surprising and unreal to them. Many stated it was a miracle from God that she suffered a fall from a second story window with just bruises. We called for a ride as we were told we would be able to leave as soon as Maylin could show that she could walk. I said “I know it hurts Maylin, but if we want to make it home you have to walk, there is a lot to be done and at least at Abuelas house we can watch Christmas movies” Our brave daughter, put on her warrior face and conquered every obstacle we were now on our way home.

We returned home the flames were all out thanks to the brave men and women in the fire departments. Two of three cars were declared totaled and a complete loss. The American Red Cross spoke with my husband with the help of my Father and Sister-in-law Shyanne and left us a debit card with money and resources that could help us in this tragedy. My sister in Maryland was notified of the fire about 3 am and she immediately made a post on facebook people were making to plans to donate within seconds of viewing. Shyanne my sister in law started a fundraiser. Family made plans to go shopping to buy us new clothes and food. Meals were brought over. My parents living room was filled with so many people there were mounds of bags and boxes of donations.

Gabriel and Edduin were looking around the remains of what was once our home to see what they could find. This same day Edduin found Veronica’s Bible that was sitting on her dresser opened to a verse that she had been reading just a few days prior. This bible that should have been burnt to an unrecognizable crisp due to the severity of the smoke and flames in this room. Maylin’s and Veronicas room was the most effected and damaged. The bible was only burnt on the edges and was flipped to a different verse. Veronica showed me and read me what she could, we looked it up in my Mom’s bilingual bible and I completely lost it. There lied a message to all of us but I felt it was more directed toward me. All the anger I had crying and asking when we were finally going to get a break, and God answered! I did not think that I was going to get a quick and literal sign. God left me/us with this message…

“I Cry aloud to God; I cry aloud, and he hears me. In times of trouble, I pray to the Lord; all night long I lift my hands in prayer, but I cannot find comfort. When I think of God, I sigh; when I meditate, I feel discouraged. He keeps me awake all night; I am so worried that I cannot speak. I think of days gone by and remember years of long ago. I spend the night in deep thought; I meditate, and this is what I ask myself: “Will the Lord always reject us? Will he never again be pleased with us? Has he stopped loving us? Does his promise no longer stand? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has anger taken the place of his compassion?” Then I said, “what hurts me most is this that God is no longer powerful.” I will remember your great deeds, Lord; I will recall the wonders you did in the past. I will think about all that you have done; I will meditate on all your mighty acts. Everything you do, O God, is holy. No god is as great as you. You are the God who works miracles; you showed your might among the nations. By your power you saved your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. When the waters saw you, O God, they were afraid, and the depths of the sea trembled. The clouds poured down the rain; thunder crashed from the sky, and lightning flashed in all directions. The crash of your thunder rolled out, and flashes of lightning lit up the world; the earth trembled and shook. You walked through the waves; you crossed the deep sea, but your footprints could not be seen. You led your people like a shepherd with Moses and Aaron in Charge” Psalm 77 Bilingual Bible with Deuterocanonical.

After that straight forward and literal sign from God I said “Amen, Yes Sir I am so sorry for questioning you may your will be done. Lead and I will always follow.” We also thought of the story of Job where everything was given to him, he was truly blessed by God. The Devil was angry and told God he only loves you because of all the THINGS that you give him take everything away from him and see how quickly he will curse your name. God allowed the Devil to take everything away from him but had the Devil promise to not take his life. The Devil took everything away from him all his wealth, all his livestock, even killed his children and gave him a skin disease but Job never stopped worshipping God. He said God gave me all that I have, and he can take it away. His wife began to curse God and wanted Job to do the same, but he wouldn’t. Job’s friends came to him and said you must have done something to make God Angry and Job said he hadn’t; therefore, his friends left Job as well. It was then when Job broke down and questioned God. Like me Job was angry and confused. We served the Lord, we helped others in need any chance that we could get why were these things happening to us? Job demanded a trial with God, God showed up said ok I will do this trial, but I speak first. God began spewing off knowledge and wisdom that only God would understand. It was beyond what our puny minds could comprehend, and it was then that Job realized he was wrong. That God is almighty, all powerful, all knowing and all loving. God has a plan, and he loves us so much.

In conclusion, 9 people, in a matter of minutes, and 5 being kids, 4 under the age of 5. We truly experienced a miracle.

We were all running on just a few hours of sleep some of us only 1 hour of sleep. Giving million thanks to all the donations. When night time came we showered and put on whatever we could find. Gabriel, Maylin, Hector, Sergio and I were in one room upstairs and Vero, Edduin, Gonzalo were in another. Despite how tired we were it was really hard going to sleep. I was already looking around trying to form an escape plan in this new home. Would I be able to drop out of a second story window? Hector and Maylin didn’t want to leave my side everyone was still scared. Scared to close their eyes and wake up to another nightmare. Sergio always was a homebody, by 7 pm he always wanted to go home and play with his own toys, and sleep in his own bed. He walked to the bedroom door and cried wanting to go home. Heartbroken, Gabriel hugged him tight and said this is our new home we will be here a while. We slept a few hours that night as well waking up at any beep, or change in sound. I felt Gabriel jump various times in the night counting 5 people making sure everyone was still safe and sound. I saw Maylin rolling back and forth in her bed that was just next to ours. Gabriel blamed himself, He said he was unlucky. It was his bad luck that caused all our years of pain, everything he touched broke. “No Gabriel, if you were unlucky, we wouldn’t have all made it out of the house. You helped to get everyone out. Digna made it out. God has a plan greater than what we can understand we just have to be patient and listen.”.

We are currently living across from our home in my Parents house. Our neighbors Martin and Sasha Kone allowed my Brother and his wife to move into their home that they are currently in the process of purchasing to allow for more space for the 9 of us to settle into. We have spread out throughout the 3 floors and have been busy sorting all the wonderful and beautiful clothes that our community has sent us here in Herrickville, Ulster, Monroeton, Towanda, Sayre Sunbury and all over PA as well as my Sister Victoria’s community in Maryland and network of friends in Arizona, Virginia, Texas etc. We were overwhelmed with the LOVE and care that our communities, friends, and families have showered us with; bringing us loads and loads of clothes, toys, school supplies, food, water, and monetary donations. Bad things have happened to us and to our family but by no means has God ever left our sides. God’s will be done. I/We still do not know what is to come but we know God is with us and always will be. Maybe God wants us to all be together in one home to battle something bigger that is to come? Maybe something bigger was after us and God saved us from the full disaster that was to be. Only God knows. This experience is very humbling, I mean I thought I was humble before, but I was corrected. To be honest I have had a very blessed life despite the things have happened in my life. I have never been without our daily bread. God has always provided. To add to the year 2020 of Corona Virus (COVID19) being in quarantine, going out in masks, and practicing social distancing we managed to get COVID19. I mean it was bound to happen right? when it rains it pours. All 15 people living in the home got infected whether all were brave enough to get tested or not. Some had really severe symptoms that had them laid out in bed for days with fever, body aches lost sense of taste and smell etc. and others like me who merely had a bad “smokers cough” since the day of the fire. Who brought it to the family who knows, and it really does not matter? We appreciated the extra family bonding together.

So, we will take on this world once more and as long as God will give us just one day at a time. Continuing to serve the Lord and helping everyone we can in need. We don’t have much, but we have already helped other victims who lost their homes to fire by re-donating extra clothes that we don’t necessarily need. We have limited space, so we are trying to accommodate all our clothes in our rooms. Sylvia and Gabriel are back in Sylvia’s childhood room with our 2 boys Hector (4) and Sergio (1). Maylin is on the main floor in my maternal grandfathers’ room who just recently went to visit my cousin in Kentucky then head to Colombia. Edduin, Veronica and their two kids Gonzalo (3) and Digna (1 month) moved to the lower apartment where Patrick and Shy were living. The house was my Paternal Grandmother’s home who moved in with my Parents when her husband died and was left alone. We were planning on buying the home and property but at the moment were not financially stable and decided to not take the plunge just yet. Unfortunately, the house was not insured, and everything is truly a complete loss. After talking among the adults, we will be staying at my parents’ home as long as we are welcome saving enough money to purchase the property and rebuild a brand new home.

We are healing day by day still anxious and shook by sounds of beeping alarms (fire alarm) and sounds of strange or not normal sounds made by electronics (apparently the refrigerator was making a questionable sound just hours before the fire). Hector tells me that the day of the fire an Angel whispered in his ear to wake up that the house was on fire. He tells me Jesus picked him up and brought him to Mommy’s arms then we went downstairs to the basement and out the doors to Abuelas house. He told me that a Dinosaur breathed fire and burned our house down. We assured him dinosaurs do not exist anymore and that the mice ate the wires behind the refrigerator which caught fire. Hector would not go anywhere out of adult supervision and as a result had potty accidents. Hector and Gonzalo do not like loud sounds such as yelling, baby cries, loud and sudden motors etc. they cover their ears and have a look of fear. The other day December 18, 2020 Hector woke up to the snow blower turning on, jumped out of bed and headbutt me as I tried to assure him everything was ok, and I was with him. He tells me he is scared, and he thought he heard the mice eating the wires and the house was going to catch fire. Everyone heals at different paces and I know it will take the kids longer to adjust. We keep assuring him that God and the Angels are always with us and they are the ones that led us out of the burning house to safety. I plan to buy him and the other kid’s crucifixes to help them visually see that we are never alone and that we are really blessed.

God surely does everything for a reason and he definitely has a plan. If Digna had not decided to enter this world early Veronica would have still been pregnant trying to exit a second story window without causing harm to her unborn child. I do not even think she would have fit through the window! Just weeks before my Grandfather left our home to travel and visit other family members and had discussed wanting to return to live in Colombia. Opening a room for Maylin (17). God has a plan, and he will see it through. God does not do evil things the devil does, but I am a witness that God is always with us. God was guiding us that night we all felt him guiding us to just the right things to do to perfectly escape the house without a second to spare.

God is good all the time, and all the time God is Good. Merry Christmas everyone Thanks so much for all the love and support that you have all shared with us. May God continue to bless you all.

Sylvia A. Rabago -Rodriguez "

The Rabago-Rodriguez family does not currently have a "Go Fund Me" account but Sylvia does have Venmo for donations towards building their new home: Sylvia-Rodriguez-197

They also lost both of their vehicles in the fire. They are looking for a good deal or a Heavy Duty work Truck or SUV. Their insurance only covered the replacement of one vehicle. If you have a vehicle you would like to donate please email me:

The other need they identified is furniture for their new home when it is built if anyone has things they are getting rid of, please let me know so I can coordinate with them.

If you do not have Venmo and want to make a donation please make checks & money orders payable to Sylvia Rodriguez and mail to: 5386 Mercur Hill Road Wyalusing PA 18853.

Please share this on your social media and tag all of your friends and family. It is my hope to spread their story as far and wide as I can and help them raise enough funds to be able to re-build their home this year as well as get them a vehicle.

Thank you for reading and supporting this beautiful resilient family.

Until next time



240 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All