AUSTIN (KXAN) — “I didn’t know how I was going to get there. I just thought I was going to die,” Anisa Oke said in tears as she recalled the early morning hours of December 11.
She and her 10-year-old daughter, Anastasia, were trapped in their burning apartment near East Anderson Lane in Austin. It happened around 3:36 a.m.
“I went back to my room and looked out the balcony, and saw a huge fire outside our front door where she was sleeping,” Oke said.
The windows near the front door started melting, and that’s when Oke said she realized they were jammed. The flames surrounded them on all sides. They just hoped they would survive.
“The first thing I thought about was making sure my daughter was safe,” Oke said.
They called 911.
“The smoke was building up and we couldn’t breathe,” Oke said. “I saw two officers running towards us, and they jumped up on the balcony and said, ‘Throw your daughter down’.”
Through the smoke and flames, Austin Police Department officers and first responders were able to pull them both from the balcony.
“The fire was pretty intense, you don’t think about it, you just do what you can in the moment,” said officer Brent Gray.
They rescued them both, but Oke and his daughter lost everything that day – no house, clothes, or gifts for the holidays.
“As a mum, I thought, ‘How am I going to make her Christmas better? How am I going to do this?’ I’m just one person,” Oke said.
Little did she realize that the same officers who helped save her and her daughter would come to the rescue again, with the help of Cpl. Chad Honaker.
For several years, he has made it his mission to help people in difficulty at Christmas. This year, this help would go to Oke and his daughter.
“Knowing that the family and the daughter lost everything in the fire, it seemed fitting to make it the project this year,” Honaker said.
They gathered resources from officers and community members and purchased clothing, jewelry, art supplies and more.
“They gave me Barbies, a necklace, a backpack and a bottle of water. I was speechless,” Anastasia said.
“It was priceless…to put a smile on a 10-year-old’s face this Christmas after going through such a tragedy,” Honaker said. “There’s no way to describe the look on her face when she saw four bags of stuff and two boxes.”
Bringing smiles and a little light into one of the family’s darkest times.
“I’m just glad they got together. It was a huge deal for me and a big surprise,” Oke said.
She hopes she and her daughter can start over and find a new home soon. For now, they live in a hotel. A GoFundMe page has been set up for Oke and his daughter to help them with their expenses.