BY YVONNE COLLERY | Do miracles come in clumps, like M15 buses? They do.
After the remarkable return of Laszlo, I was still praying for a second miracle, as I couldn’t stop thinking about Lulu and the terror that she must be living through. As of last Wednesday, a full week had gone by since the fire, and I knew that even if Lulu were somewhere inside my apartment at 125 Second Ave., time was running out. Lulu is a tiny cat and she was already a full week without food or water.
Most of my neighbors in my building got the go-ahead to go back into their apartments last Wednesday for the first time. My neighbor Bob called me at 2:20 p.m. and told me that we could go into our apartments and stay until 3 p.m. I was only a block away, and I eagerly scampered to the corner of St. Mark’s Place and Second Ave. where Office of Emergency Management personnel would take me to my building.
I showed my ID but O.E.M. informed me that my apartment was not on the list since it was still too unsafe to enter. O.E.M. informed me that it would probably be several more days at least until my apartment would be on the safe list.
I was as frantic as a mother cat — I needed to get into my apartment if I had any hope of ever seeing my Lulu again. I knew that she was in a desperate situation and that time was running out.
I had Fire Chief Quinn’s number and I sent him a text. “The police and the OEM won’t let me into my apartment,” I said. “Can you help me?”
Only a few minutes went by before I received a return text: “Let me do some investigating.”
Five minutes later I got another text: “Can you meet me on the corner of St. Marks and Second at five?”
“Sure,” I texted back.
At five o’clock on the nose I saw Captain Quinn waiting on my corner. He opened the police barricade where I was not let in before.
“Follow me,” he said.
We entered my building, now both familiar and unfamiliar as the halls were covered in soot and filled with broken glass. The formerly rather dark halls were now flooded with sunlight, since no buildings were left standing beside it.
As we negotiated the rubble-strewn stairs, Captain Quinn asked, “Are you sure you are prepared for this? It will be a shock. Are you sure you want to go in?”
“I was actually prepared for this,” I replied, sweeping my hand toward the ruins of demolished buildings seen out of the stairwell window. “And besides, I have to find my cat.”
I could see an odd look creep across his face as he said, “The guys have looked all over for your cat these past two days.” His look warned me that I would be sorely disappointed.
As we entered my apartment, I tried hard not to look as stunned as I felt. It seemed as though my legs would go out from under me at any second or that I would vomit. It was awful. I saw that there were two cat traps set out in two different rooms. They were both empty. I also noticed that things had been taken out of closets and storage areas, so that one could see that no cat was there.
I started calling “Lulu! Lulu! Lulu! Lulu!” to no avail.
Captain Quinn and the commander watched me as I went from room to room. I had a sinking, sickening feeling in my gut as I fruitlessly looked for Lulu. I went into the last room, my studio, and saw that the ceiling had fallen in, leaving water and wet plaster covering everything.
I remembered one remote hiding place between a work desk and a filing cabinet. I got down on my hands and knees and crawled over the wet filth and stuck my head into the soaked tiny space. No Lulu.
Feeling utterly hopeless and dejected, I returned to my bedroom where I saw all the knocked-out windows stacked against my bureau. Since Lulu is so tiny, she was always able to get into the drawers through a small space in the back of the bureau. I pulled all the windows toward me and quickly opened a drawer.
As I was opening it, I saw Lulu looking up at me with her intense green eyes as if she were asking, “Where were you?”
I just as quickly shut the drawer and excitedly squealed, “I found her! I found her!”
Unbelieving, both Captain Quinn and the commander both said almost simultaneously, “No way! No way!”
I was so scared that Lulu would just slither out the back of the drawer and slink off to another hiding spot, as I shouted excitedly, “Go get the cat carrier, it is on the top shelf of the closet in the back room!”
Captain Quinn ran and got the carrier and put it on the table. I quickly opened the drawer and pulled Lulu out in one firm, quick movement. It took all three of us to put her in the carrier and zip her in.
Thanks to the F.D.N.Y. and the Kindness of the Universe, I have my two cats back. The black cloud that has been the last two weeks is gently lifting. Spring is in the air and all things new are eagerly awaited.