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“This is a crazy nightmare”: Mother recounts the last moments with her 3 children who died in a power failure in Texas
Courtesy of Jackie Nguyen Last Monday, Jackie was grateful to Pham Nguyen that she still had power in her Texas home. Their kids – Colette, 5, Edison, 8, and Olivia, 11 – were playing in the snow that morning before heading for hot chocolate and leftover food from New Years celebrations. They played bananagrams and other board games for hours. Their grandma, Loan Le, joined them. The 75-year-old, who lost heat in her own apartment due to the state power blackout, braved icy streets to seek shelter in her home in Sugar Land. These three siblings tragically died in Texas’ freezer. It didn’t have to be like that. “To be honest, it was a great day. We ate lunch and hung out at home. The kids were excited that they didn’t have school because it was President’s Day, and we just kept the news in the background the whole time, ”Jackie said. “All day I was grateful that we were among the 10 to 15 percent of Houston that had electricity.” When the lights went out at 5:00 pm, the family was not put off. They huddled together to warm, Jackie lit the fireplace and continued playing. Around 9:30 p.m. or 10:00 p.m. Jackie put the kids upstairs in bed and fell asleep downstairs in their room. Four hours later the house was on fire. Jackie said she didn’t remember much that night other than when a firefighter woke up in a hospital bed to inform her that the children – and their mother – were gone. “After that I couldn’t breathe anymore. Even now I can’t believe it. This is a crazy nightmare and I’ll wake up any minute, “Jackie told The Daily Beast.” How did we all have this normal day and how did it end? “she said. Authorities are investigating what caused the fire, which occurs in extreme weather and a deadly power crisis across the state. Initial reports on social media suggested that the inferno may have started from the fire the family owned.” Dozens of people in Texas – and across America – died in last week’s winter storms. The cold snap devastated the Lone Star State in particular, where millions of people live due to infrastructure failures in the state. Among the dead is 11-year-old Cristian Pineda, who died of hypothermia in his freezing cold. Mobile home in Conroe. The sixth grader and his family came to the US from Honduras two years ago. Cristian’s mother Maria has a $ 100 million lawsuit against the state network operator, Texas Electric Reliability Council (ERC OT) and the utility Entergy Corporation. Houston’s mother, Etenesh Mersha, and 7-year-old daughter, Rakeb Shalemu, died of carbon monoxide poisoning after desperately searching for warmth in their car. Andy Anderson, a Vietnam veteran in Crosby, died of hypothermia while trying to get a generator working; He relied on an oxygen machine that would not work without electricity. There are many tragic stories of loss and probably more. Vanessa Kon, an aunt of the Nguyen children, told The Daily Beast she believed officials should have been prepared for the power grid disaster. Courtesy Jackie Nguyen “We don’t know what happened,” said Kon. “We don’t know why the lights went out like this. The city should have been prepared for this. Why was the power turned off? If the power weren’t off, it wouldn’t have happened. For her part, Jackie has not even begun to consider allegations of negligence against Texas electricity companies. “I’m in this kind of crisis mode right now,” said Jackie from an extended stay hotel. “I’m just waiting for what people have to say.” For a few days she still smelled of the smoke from her burning house until she finally found a hotel with running water. “I don’t remember much from that night,” she said. “I inhaled a lot of smoke. It affected part of my brain cognition. I really just hope a lot of it comes back. Because I want to be able to put it all together. “Jackie remembers letting Olivia talk about Zoom with her friends from a New York summer camp that evening, even though she wanted to save power on her electronic devices in anticipation of outages. “I’m grateful that I slacked off a bit so she could have that. Your friends might have this memory, ”said Jackie. She remembers the kids trying to teach Loan the speed card game, but Loan didn’t start. She thinks of little Colette, nicknamed Coco, who suggests mixing chocolate syrup with milk because they are running out of cocoa mixture. Jackie said Grandma Loan lived only five miles away and usually only spent the night in her own house. Even during Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Loan stubbornly chose to stay alone. “I found it so strange that she didn’t even make it difficult for me to come over,” said Jackie of Monday’s overnight stay. “I kind of wonder… if things happened the way it would be there. She couldn’t have survived if she had known what happened to her grandchildren. “The grieving mother, who was burned and smoke inhalation from the fire, said a blow was going through her head. She remembers standing in the foyer of her two-story house and coming across walls of flames. She screamed for the children but did not hear them. All she heard was the crackling of the fire, the sound of the walls dissolving. She believes that her friend, a light sleeper who stayed overnight, pulled her out of the house. The friend tried to call 911 but her phone didn’t work, so she ran out and knocked on the neighbors’ doors. “As a parent, of course you wonder if there was anything you could have done,” said Jackie. “The way it was explained to me is just: I’m happy to be alive. I had nothing else to do. “When Jackie tries to recap what happened that night, she wants people to know who their children are – and how important their grandmother is in their lives, an unsung hero and the glue that holds the family together. Jackie’s parents moved to the United States from Vietnam, where Jackie was born in 1981. Loan and her husband Cau Pham were refugees in Malaysia before coming to California and later moving to Texas. Jackie’s three children were first generation Americans. View this post on Instagram A post by Jackie Pham Nguyen (@jaxwin) “If it weren’t for my kids, she probably wouldn’t have made it as long as she,” Jackie said of Loan, adding that Cau died a few years ago. “You gave it meaning. She planned everything around her 3:00 am pick up at school. Or she bought groceries for us. “I can’t say enough about how my mother was a stone to me and how she spared my children mercy,” Jackie added. Jackie’s associates at tech firm Topl and her cohort at Rice University, where she’ll be earning an MBA this spring, has launched a GoFundMe that has raised more than $ 278,000. Currently, the fundraiser is a placeholder for a future foundation honoring Colette, Edison, and Olivia. (Kon also created a GoFundMe on behalf of her brother Nathan Nguyen, the father of the children.) All of her children, she said, were very different “little people”. The firstborn Olivia was funny and sarcastic and loved skiing and listening to Queen, Journey and other classic rock music. “It’s a very old soul – it’s in this middle school girl’s body,” said Jackie. “She’ll tell me what the songs are about. Anything she was curious about would immerse her. Every song, she reads the lyrics, looks up the story, the band members. She could have been in danger or some kind of trivia. «Mother and daughter had a special relationship. both were the oldest in their family. “She was such a good big sister,” said Jackie. “It was a love-hate relationship [being the oldest child]. It’s a burden. It’s a different way she and I told each other. “Edison, who had just turned 8 in November, was a sweet, gentle boy who enjoyed art and painting and was incredibly attuned to other people’s moods. Jackie said Edison was slightly autistic and struggled with social tact, but he was also incredibly considerate. “He could always feel whether I was sad, stressed, or worried. He only checked in with me – my 8 year old! “” I would ask him, ‘Are you happy, my son? Do you have a good day?’ The things we often say to each other were, “If you’re happy, I’m happy,” said Jackie. “After spending a minute with him, you just knew he had such a warm heart.” Colette, 5 years old, was a girl and didn’t apologize – especially when she was making videos for TikTok. She even made and presented a PowerPoint show for Jackie’s birthday, with a slide that said, “Top five reasons I love mom.” “She was always dancing and talking to herself like she was on a live -Show, “said Jackie. “She wouldn’t accept her birth order. There was no way anyone would throw her around and bully her. “But she was also very loving and loving, always hugging her mother or holding her hand. “Even when she looks at you, she looks longingly and deeply into your eyes, it’s adorable,” said Jackie. Jackie said she would like the GoFundMe money to be used for purposes related to performing and visual arts, autism awareness, and reading and reading literacy – topics that directly indicate who her children were as humans: “They are amazing little people , and they would have been great to really make a difference and make a difference, ”she said. “This is the legacy that I could do for you. This is the goodness that they might have done had they been able to live their lives. “Read more at The Daily Beast. Do you have a tip? Submit it to The Daily Beast here. Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now! Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside delves deeper into the stories that matter to you. Learn more.