Update on the Lizardos: Social Justice in Leadville
In the early morning hours of May 30, 2015 a fire broke out at the Mountain View West Trailer Park claiming the life of 11-year-old Marc Lizardo and destroying his family’s home and all of their possessions.
During the months that followed as the Lizardos picked up the pieces of their lives as well as their broken hearts, many people and organizations came to their aid and comfort. That’s where Leadville shines best.
Help also came from the Catholic Charities of Central Colorado who provided assistance with Leadville’s Holy Family Parish, where the Lizardos attend church. The following story is an update on the Lizardos, re-printed with permission from Catholic Charities of Central Colorado’s Helping Hands newsletter.
Social Justice In Leadville, CO
When a life is lost, love and support will overcome. The people of Leadville experienced this after the unfortunate death of a young community member. As a mountain resort town, many migrant workers come to the area seeking employment, which is how Gloria Lizardo, a single mother with her four children and grandchild, came to reside in Leadville. The family lived in a crowded mobile home – all they could afford on Gloria’s limited income.
In May, tragedy struck the Lizardo home when an electrical fire occurred. The smoke alarms were defective and as the family slept, the flames grew.
Eventually, the smoke caused 11-year old Marc Anthony, an asthmatic, to wake. He immediately alerted his family so they could get out of the burning home, but once outside, Gloria discovered Marc Anthony was not with the rest of the family. Aware of the gravity of the situation, John Oritiz, Captain of the Leadville Fire Department, called in off-duty firefighters and fire departments in nearby counties for assistance. Once the fire was under control, they entered the structure and found the body of Marc Anthony.
The entire community was impacted by this tragedy. Captain Ortiz said, “Being such a small department in a small town, it hit us hard. As a department, we showed up for the funeral, which was probably one of the hardest things our department has ever done.” For his role in saving his family, Marc Anthony was named an honorary firefighter. The local community rallied around the family with financial, social, and spiritual support, helping the Lizardos slowly piece their lives back together.
Catholic Charities (CC) learned of the tragedy through Holy Family Parish in Leadville, where they make regular deliveries to help stock the parish’s food pantry. CC provided donations of clothes and toys, as well as a donated car to replace the family’s vehicle, which was damaged in the fire. The family also received support from CC’s Life Connections counseling staff. With the local community’s support and assistance from CC, the Lizardo family is now living in a new apartment. Itzel, the oldest child, found work and uses the donated car to make her commute. She says, “Deep inside, we’re really thankful for everyone that helped. We don’t even know how to express our gratefulness.”
The story might not have had a tragic ending if the smoke detectors were working properly because smoke detectors save lives. Rosalie Pena, Parish Social Ministry Coordinator at CC, could not agree more. After contacting numerous resources, Pena learned the American Red Cross of Southeastern Colorado’s Home Fire Campaign partners with Kiddie Smoke Alarms to check and install new smoke alarms in low-income communities. She immediately organized an event to have these free smoke alarms installed in homes in the Leadville area.
In November, a group of volunteers installed 105 smoke alarms in Leadville and Salida, including the community where the Lizardo family had lived. During the event a firefighter discovered and replaced a sparking smoke detector that had melted, possibly preventing a fire; families were educated on the importance of fire safety and taking preventative measures; and several more installation events were scheduled for other at-risk communities. This community-wide collaboration has informed and equip families with the means to prevent another terrible accident; has provided the foundation of healing for the Lizardo family and the community; and has honored the life of the community’s youngest firefighter, Marc Anthony.