LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Marissa Espinoza woke to the smell of smoke.
“I heard people yelling, ‘everybody needs to get out. Get everyone out!’”
She jumped out of bed and rushed to open the door.
“It’s just like a gush of hot wind and you could see all the fire on the roof," Espinoza said.
She quickly grabbed her phone, purse and keys. A neighbor held one of her cats -- the other had scurried under the bed. She tried to go back for her kitten but was stopped.
“That’s when I realized I’m alone, like, what do I do? Nobody really knows what to expect. You see it in a movie and you never expect it to happen to you.”
At 21 years old, Espinoza watched as her first adult apartment -- a place she had moved into just a month before -- went up in flames. All her childhood belongings -- everything -- gone.
“At that point, it’s just all a daze, kind of. You don’t really think this has happened to you. You’re just going to wake up and it’s all going to be a dream and you’re going to be fine, you didn’t lose anything. Nothing happened.”
Since the fire in August, Espinoza says she’s had difficulty sleeping and hasn’t been able to open up about it much. It’s been tough on her mom too.
“As a mom, it’s hard because I want to make things better for her and I can’t because I don’t know how," said Michele Crawford, Marissa's mom.
There’s nothing that will immediately make things better for her daughter, but when Crawford heard about our 13 Days and Knights of Giving, she thought it may bring a smile to her face. And it could help Espinoza begin to rebuild.
“I just want her to know. Whatever I can, whatever the family can. We’re there for her. We just want to see her with a smile," said Crawford.
At just 21 years old, Espinoza is wise beyond her years. She knows what she needs most now is time -- time to process and time to heal.
“I wasn’t necessarily a materialistic person back then but I did like saving things for memories. Now, I’d just rather live in the moment, really enjoy everything. People are like, 'Why aren’t you taking pictures, why aren’t you doing this?' I’m like, because, in the end, all you have is you and you have the memories.”
13 Days and Knights of Giving is sponsored by the Vegas Golden Knights Foundation, America First Credit Union and Subaru of Las Vegas.