Balancing Act: A family lost everything in a fire 2 days before Christmas. Their neighbors rushed to help make them whole

Heidi Stevens, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Lifestyles

Jordan Jackson has a little morning routine. He runs from the living room in his family’s Evanston, Illinois, apartment back to his parents’ bedroom and checks if his mom is awake. If she’s sleeping, he kisses her cheek and runs back out. A few minutes later: repeat.

Jordan is 9 and he’s autistic. His mom, Mayra Jackson, said the routine soothes him. (She’s pretty fond of it too.)

On the morning of Dec. 23, Jordan and his younger brother, Nicholas, were playing in the living room of their garden apartment with their dad, Latwian Jackson, who was getting ready to log on to his computer to start his work day. It wasn’t quite 7 a.m.

Jordan commenced to running. On one of his return trips, he yelled, “Papi! Papi! There’s a fire!”

Flames had erupted behind the wall where Mayra slept. She awoke to her husband telling her there was a fire. Jordan and Nicholas, 4, started to cry. Mayra and Latwian rushed them out a back door. Only Latwian was dressed for the day.

They grabbed nothing but Mayra’s phone, which she was using to call 911 when Jill Miller appeared outside their back door.


“She’s like, ‘Come on, guys, come on, get in my car,’” Mayra Jackson said. “My little one ran to her, no hesitation, and she took him and was holding him and he was panicked and cold. I think it was the city girl in me, but I’m like, ‘Who is this person?’”

(Mayra Jackson grew up in and around Bucktown. “Before it was Bucktown,” she said.)

The fire department arrived and extinguished the fire within 10 minutes of Jackson’s call. No foul play is suspected, and the fire is suspected to be electrical in origin, Kimberly Kull, Evanston’s division chief of emergency management and logistics, said last Monday.

But those 10 minutes were enough to destroy the family’s home and virtually all of their belongings. Their clothing. Their photos. Jacob and Nicholas’ toys. Mayra’s artwork, which she used to display on the apartment windows, much to the delight of passersby on Dempster Street. The baking equipment she was collecting to start a cake pop business. The crutches Mayra still relied on after falling and breaking her leg in January. All gone, two days before Christmas.


swipe to next page
(c)2020 the Chicago Tribune Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC. ©2021 Chicago Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.