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4 of 24 It happened 5 years ago…the Untold Stories

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It was about 10:30 p.m.  and we have been sitting in the living room watching TV, but we were really thinking about what the outcome would be at tomorrow’s City Planning Commission hearing.  About that time, Mom popped her head in to say “it’s going to be a big day tomorrow it’s time to get ready for bed.”  Then, all of a sudden, Mom yelled “Una Rata” (“A RAT”)!  “It’s chewing on the electrical cord.”  We jumped up and ran over to see but the rat was gone and nowhere to be found.  Dad looked at the cord and there seemed to be no damage.   Once upon a time, our community was vibrant and full of life.  Now, our community was barren and infested with rodents all because Dallas ISD had barreled into our community, seized homes for a new school and parking lot, threatened families out, and left the community abandoned filled with bugs and rodents. We were headed for the hearing after months of threats from DISD.   DISD sent a little note to my parents.  The little note was supposed to be a full translation for a 32 page contract of sale.    The note also informed them that they must pay DISD $800 a month to live in our own home and not to even think about obtaining an attorney because we did not stand a chance of winning against the district. Our hope was that the City Planning Commission would take consideration and compassion over our community.

It was after midnight and we were all in a deep sleep when we awoke to screams.  Mom woke up to smoke and a fire located right where the rat was last seen. “Insendio” “Salganse” (meaning “FIRE” “Get out”) and I jumped up and ran.  It felt like I was running for miles before falling just a few feet from the door.  For me, it wasn’t yet a reality in what felt like a surreal moment.  It was like one of those out-of-body experiences as I looked around and mumbled “this is  a dream,” while my dad and mom were scrambling trying to get us out.  Then the house filled with a grey colored smoke and a haze.

Soon, the firefighters arrived and looked at the full-blown inferno in front of them.  The sirens of the dashing police cars escalated the tension amidst my weeping family.  There was a very putrid smell that took over the whole neighborhood, like a bad barbeque celebration gone terribly wrong.  The odor became overpowering as our house was burning and within a few hours it was over, making me realize the hollowness that remained.  It took my parents many years to build their dream house and it took only a few hours to completely destroy their dreams.

As part of the affected community who was fighting to save the community from Dallas ISD’s plan to uproot the neighborhood, they showed my family irrepressible kindness, guidance and caring.  In our despair, they took us in.  In the midst of the darkness, they showed us that there was a light to guide our souls and the future of our home.  That morning, regardless of what we had experienced, I was determined to speak on behalf of my family and attended that City Planning Commissioners hearing only wearing my pajamas that September day.   My body shivered while my voice quivered as I addressed the planning commission in a soft voice,   I delivered a short message, with a heart that was heavy like a ton a bricks. We were victorious at the hearing, even thought it was just for that a short period of time.

Unfortunately, DISD did not take responsibility for the infestation of rodents that lead to that horrible day.   Months followed and finally we are back home.  We thank our fellow neighbors and friends that have stood by our side, and who not only helped us save our home from DISD’s clutches, but also helped us rebuild our home after DISD’s actions.  Today, our hearts remain in fear that Dallas ISD will return to complete their mission.

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