PITTSBURGH - There are moments that are permanently engraved in one’s memory. Moments when time seems to stand still and every detail is committed to memory for the rest of one’s life.
For Carlow University upcoming junior Bryn Young, one such moment occurred on April 21.
“My sister called me and told me that our house was on fire. Before I could fully process what she was telling me, I heard an explosion and the line went dead,” she recalls.
Immediately dropping everything she was doing, she went to her family’s home in Lawrenceville, fighting through crowds of onlookers and first responders only to find the house and two houses next to it engulfed in flames. She sat on the curb stunned by what she was seeing and concerned about what she was not seeing – other members of her family.
“The firefighters were asking me if I knew where they were. I couldn’t reach anyone by phone and I wasn’t seeing them either,” she said.
Fortunately, her family was safe; just not easily found in the chaos of the moment. Her mother, sister, stepfather and stepsister were unharmed but escaped the house with only the clothes on their backs.
“I don’t want to say that the material things are totally irrelevant because they are important, too, but material things can be replaced. Your family can’t,” Young said.
It has been a long six weeks for Young and her family, but they are slowly getting back on their feet. They found a temporary place to live and are slowly replacing the things they have lost. Her family and neighbors set up pages on Gofundme.com to provide a place for friends and family to contribute, and Young says the response has been overwhelming.
The response from the Carlow community to support one of its own has also been amazing.
“Carlow alumni, faculty, staff, trustees and friends ‘stepped up’ and provided significant support to help our students in need,” said Kimberley Hammer, Esq., Vice President of Advancement, who added that more than $134,000 has been raised for the Student Emergency Fund. “Such support is a cornerstone of the Mercy culture.”
Sister Sheila Carney, RSM, special assistant to the president for Mercy Service and Heritage, uses a biology metaphor to explain why responding to the next great need – wherever that need arises – is such a basic response of Carlow’s culture.
“Sometimes the next great need is emerges from the lives of our students, and, when we are confronted by such a situation, it is in our DNA, if you will, to be there with support both practical and emotional,” she said. “Our Mercy identity requires this kind of quick and generous response.”
All Young can say is that the Carlow community was there when she and her family needed them.
“The Carlow Funds have helped me tremendously,” said Young. In the immediate aftermath of the fire, contributions helped with day-to-day necessities such as food, clothing, mattresses, and rent.
Despite the fire, Young’s classes continued, though in a much different form due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a political science major with her eyes set on law school someday, she was able to engage in remote learning in all of her classes, but remote learning is not her ideal format.
“I’m someone who likes to engage with my professors and classmates and ask lots of questions,” she said. “Remote learning isn’t as conducive to that as being face-to-face.”
Nevertheless, she has endured with lots of support from professors and classmates.
“Bryn sent me an email explaining her situation,” said Sandi DiMola, JD, chair of the Department of Political Science, who had Young in two course during the Spring semester. “I suggested that she take an incomplete in the two courses she had with me, so she could concentrate on getting the logistics of her life back together.” She also asked Young if she could connect her with the Carlow Care Team, which collaborates with faculty and staff to provide support to promote student safety, success and overall well-being. Young quickly agreed and is thankful for the support she has received.
“All of my professors were compassionate and understanding if the assignments weren’t turned in exactly on time,” she said. “My peers have reached out to me offering their support, too. I don’t think you get that kind of compassion at any other college in the city.”
So what’s next for Bryn Young? For one thing, a possible internship this summer or fall with the City of Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority, so she can learn first-hand about caring for the economic development of her community. Beyond that, her sights might be set a bit higher.
“I think I’d like to be a congresswoman someday,” she said.
Gifts to the Student Emergency Fund will make an immediate difference for those dealing with unexpected financial needs such as travel expenses, housing, loss of income, reliable technology, and scholarship. The Student Emergency Fund, part of the Carlow Fund, will be even more critical in the weeks and months ahead. Thank you for helping us take care of Carlow students. We are grateful for your support.