A 12-year-old middle school boy, Fernando Castro, was killed as a fire ripped through his family’s home.
To everyone who knew him, he was affectionately known as “Nano.”
The night of the fire, Nano and his young siblings – three-year-old half-sister Esmeralda (“Esme”) and five-year-old half-brother Luis (Junior)– were home with a babysitter and her boyfriend, when a fire sparked inside their home.
The children’s mother, Juana Vasquez, was away driving her daughter back to college after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
The babysitter told the police that one of the children moved a ‘space heater’ into their bedroom.
She thought that was how the fire started.
The fast-moving flames engulfed everyone inside.
The thick, black smoke hindered the Firefighters, but they worked through it and found Nano’s body inside the burned-out home.
Esme and Junior survived but suffered critical injuries that left them both hospitalized, with Esme suffering from burns over 40 percent of her body, while Junior has burns on over 70 percent of his body.
They were burned so badly that they had to be placed in medically induced comas.
Doctors have told the family that each child would need more than 80 operations between now and the age of 18 to fully recover from their severe injuries.
Nano’s mourning mother, Juana, remembered how he would always turn to give her a big “thumbs up” every morning before getting on the school bus.
She clings to this image of her boy who seems to be saying here, with his thumbs up, “I’m OK, Mom, everything’s OK.”
I remember meeting Esme and Junior along with their aunts, at the Phoenix World Burn Conference, who are taking care of them now.
Let me tell you what’s really amazing that has come out of this tragedy.
It is the power of love in a larger family.
These 2 aunts are bringing deep emotional and physical healing to their niece and nephew. (I remember the nights after Ryan died when I had my two sisters, Dianne and Darby, and my parents surrounding us with their love).
Now, I look at this photograph and see that the same thing has happened for this little family.
They are encircled by a love that will never let them go.
There’s a message for all of us in this.
In an age where we are losing a sense of the ‘nuclear family,’ it’s sad, isn’t it, that it often takes a tragedy to shatter the walls we’ve put between us and open our eyes to the best gift God has given us.
The Gift of Family.
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