It was 11:30 a.m. Sept. 26 and Viridiana Silva was changing her newborn son.
Silva, 31, was still recovering from delivering her son two weeks prior, and was at home in THE Mid-Valley when her 4-year-old sprinted into the room.
“He just came running and told me the house was burning down,” Silva said.
Silva grabbed her newborn and her 4-year-old and took them from the home as the flames spread through the attic.
A neighbor called the fire department, but when they arrived 20 minutes later, there wasn’t much to save: The electrical fire consumed most of the rear of the house, and what was left of the Silvas’ home and possessions were damaged beyond repair.
Silva stood outside, waiting for the fire to be extinguished.
“I was nervous, I didn’t know what to do,” she said. “I was just thinking, ‘Where am I gonna go with my kids?’ I don’t have the money to go get another house, to rent a house at the moment.”
Silva dreaded the moment when her other four children would arrive and find out that their home was gone.
“They were crying when they got there,” she said.
Silva turned to her parents, who took her in, converting a shed in their backyard into living quarters.
“It was for storage, but my dad fixed it with sheetrock, so we’re staying outside,” Silva said. “We have a little couch and a bed.”
In total, there are 15 occupants staying on the property. She pitches in for utility bills when she can, but Silva has focused most of her energy on rebuilding a new home near her old one.
“That’s our land already, so why are we going to be paying rent somewhere else?” she said. “What about if I get sick or something, where are my kids going to go? If I can’t pay the rent, then I’m out.”
Silva’s brother works in construction and he’s been helping her rebuild. They work on the house on the weekends, all of the family pitching in together.
Recently, the family laid the groundwork for the new home and built the base of the structure, Silva’s kids helping spread and pack sand for the foundation.
“It was really hard, we were so tired,” Silva said. “We come every Saturday and Sunday, and we don’t leave until like six.”
Silva has previously worked as a waitress and a cashier. Currently, she works selling makeup. She’s organized two plate sales to supplement her income, but the lion’s share of the money she makes still goes to building supplies and necessities, which makes things particularly hard with Christmas coming up.
Sometimes, Silva said, one of her children will ask for something when they visit the store. The answer is almost inevitably no.
“I get sad, and distressed, because I can’t get it for them,” she said.
Silva said that the strain has taken a toll on her mental health. Simultaneously being a mother, a salesperson and a homebuilder means that many days the work simply never ends.
“I’m a single mom, but it’s really hard for anyone to go through this,” she said, choking on her words and tearing up. “Sometimes I get really depressed. Sometimes I’m really sad, and really stressed. Like, I’m mad; why do I gotta go through all of this?”
Sometimes, Silva said, she thinks about quitting, about abandoning the lot with the charred home and trying to move on. Ultimately, however, she perseveres for her children.
“I was thinking, ‘I’m not gonna do anymore, I’m just gonna go rent,’” she said. “But then I think, ‘No, I can’t give up.’ I want them to see that they have a strong mom. I don’t want them to see me give up.”
The Silva family is in especial need of building supplies and money to purchase building supplies, including lumber, electrical equipment, light fixtures and bathroom fixtures. The family is also in need of furniture, appliances, household goods and clothing, including clothes and shoes for boys from two months to 10-years-old. The family is also requesting women’s shirts in size large and 14/16, pants in size 11 and 14, and shoes in size 81/2 and 6.
For information on how you can donate to the family, call the United Way of South Texas at (956) 686-6331, between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, and inquire about contributing to The Monitor’s Spirit of Christmas campaign.
All donations go to the family. United Way does not keep any of the proceeds donated.