AUSTIN (KXAN) — “I didn’t know how I was going to make it. I just thought I was going to die,” Anisa Oke tearfully said as she remembered the early morning hours of Dec. 11.
She and her 10-year-old daughter, Anastasia, were trapped in their burning apartment off East Anderson Lane in Austin. It happened around 3:36 a.m.
“I went back to my bedroom and looked off the balcony, and I saw a huge fire in front of 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 stuck. Flames surrounded them on every side. They were just hoping they would survive.
“The first thing I thought was to make sure my daughter got to safety,” Oke said.
They called 911.
“The smoke was piling in, and we couldn’t breathe,” Oke said. “I saw two officers running to us, and they jumped 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,” Officer Brent Gray said.
They rescued them both, but Oke and her daughter lost everything that day — no home, clothes or presents for the holidays.
“As a mom, I thought, ‘how am I going to make her Christmas better? How am I going to do this?’ I’m only one person,” Oke said.
She didn’t realize the same officers who helped save her and her daughter would come to the rescue once again, with the help of Cpl. Chad Honaker.
For a few years, he’s made it his mission to help people who are struggling during Christmas. This year, that help would go to Oke and her daughter.
“Knowing that the family and daughter lost everything in the fire, it seemed appropriate to make that the project this year,” Honaker said.
They pulled together resources from officers and community members and purchased clothes, jewelry, art supplies and more.
“They got me some Barbies, a necklace, a backpack and a water bottle. I was speechless,” Anastasia said.
“It was priceless … to make a 10 year old smile at 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 in one of the family’s darkest moments.
“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 will be able to start over and get a new home soon. For now, they are living in a hotel. A GoFundMe page has been set up for Oke and her daughter to help with their expenses.