How one cat survived the Second Ave. catastrophe

BY YVONNE COLLERY   |  In every disaster, heroes are born, and the Second Ave. explosion brought me two that I would like you to know about. But first, let me tell you about Laszlo and his twin sister, Lulu, 15-year residents of the East Village.

I adopted them as five-week-old kittens from the motorcycle garage on E. Sixth St. and Avenue C and brought them to live with me at 125 Second Ave. Together we weathered 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy, but we were not so lucky with last week’s crisis.

Like the building’s other three cats — Ryce, Sebastian and Kitty Cordelia — whose owners were unable to get them out, I was unable to get Laszlo and Lulu out. Their home, partially gutted at the top and unstable at the bottom, is left standing, but no tenants are allowed inside.

For four days, frantic pet owners like myself have been going to the Red Cross disaster center trying to get help. The ASPCA did a sweep of No. 125 on Saturday and reported that all of the apartment doors were left wide open and the windows smashed. None of our cats, they said, were in the building. At this point, I lost hope of ever finding Laszlo and Lulu in my apartment. 

My friend Michael and I spent Saturday night posting “MISSING PET” posters, hoping that people in the area would keep their eyes peeled for Laszlo and Lulu, who I thought could be somewhere in the alleys or gardens on the block. 

When we got to the perimeter of the fenced-off disaster area, Michael said, “Look, there are still firefighters in your apartment.” I had noticed them in a photo in The New York Times the day before and they were still there. 

Yvonne Collery is reunited with Laszlo, who she feared had been lost in last Thursday’s East Village explosion and fire.  Photo by Bob Krasner
Yvonne Collery is reunited with Laszlo, who she feared had been lost in last Thursday’s East Village explosion and fire. Photo by Bob Krasner

Fast-forward to Monday. I spent the morning calling different agencies about putting the word out about our “East Village Eight “ (five cats from my building, three from the others). I then went to my friend Laurel, who gave me clothes, since I only had the things that I was wearing last Thursday when everything changed.

The next stop was a friend who volunteered to make fliers for all the missing cats. I was on my way to pick up some prescriptions when I got the idea to ask a fireman who was resting in a fire truck on Sixth St. if he knew any of the firemen who were in my apartment. I figured that if they were there anyway, they could grab my ID, good jewelry and underwear, which were all in the same bureau.

He said it seemed like a possibility and he walked me past the police to the F.D.N.Y. command center tent, where I put my request to Fire Chief Mike Quinn. He told me that my apartment was being used as the operations command center and that he would ask the deputy chief.

Twenty minutes later, Deputy Chief Brosi was in the tent, asking me, “How do I know that you are not some stranger asking for a passport and a gold watch?” I produced my credit cards and a picture ID, which he took upstairs.

Fifteen minutes later he handed me a large box, which contained the contents of three bureau drawers. Then, he looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and said, “Let me ask you, have you any interest in a cat that’s hiding in a closet?” At that point, I burst into tears and threw my arms around his neck.

“Could you get him?” I asked, not knowing which of the two it was.

“That depends,” he said. “Is it vicious?”

I paused for a second. Although neither is viscious, my cats sometimes like a fight with a stranger. 

“You paused — that might not be good,” he said, again with that twinkle in his eyes. “I’ll see what I can do.”

Ten minutes later, he and Chief Quinn returned. They put the cat carrier in front of me and there was Laszlo peering out.

“The guys thought that he might be hungry, so they put a bowl of tuna in with him,” Brosi said.

I was ecstatic to see my Laszlo’s perfect face again. Crying with joy, we trundled off — a teary but very happy, newly homeless lady and a small, brave survivor of the Second Ave. explosion — to take a cab to our temporary home.

When we got there, I took Laszlo out and hugged him. As I put my face in his fur, I smelled the unmistakable odors of fire and fish.

My darling Laszlo, who is like a big, beating heart, was finally safely removed from the horrors of the past few days, thanks to the the kindness of two of the true, big-hearted heroes of the F.D.N.Y.

If you see any of our lost pets, you can call the pet owner directly, if the phone number is on the poster. You can also bring the cat to Whiskers Pet Store, at 235 E. Ninth St. and leave it at Rescue Ranch. Or you can call 311 and a ask for Animal Control and they will come and pick them up between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Update: As of Wednesday evening, the following missing Second Ave. cats have also been rescued: Laszlo’s sister, Lulu, Kitty Cordelia and Sebastian.

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