Yet another unnatural disaster struck the city yesterday, when a seven-storey building in Vakola fell apart around 11.45 am, crushing seven lives and breaking many others. But at the heart of the calamitous episode lies the story of a young girl, who brought forth a lesser-seen side of human frailties and courage.

Not without my dogs: Jessica D’silva with Puffy and Kitty
Not without my dogs: Jessica D’silva with Puffy and Kitty. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

In the fraction of time that 16-year-old Jessica D’silva, a resident of the tenement next to the Shankarlok building, had to get away alive, as slabs and stone started raining on her house, she put her dogs’ lives before her own.

More worried about her two pets, she rushed to grab them with the help of her uncle, who was also inside the house with her.

“I wouldn’t have left home till they weren’t out safe by my side. I have grown up with them and when the building fell over our chawl, my first priority was to get them out safely,” Jessica said.

She made the split-second decision knowing full well that the falling building would crush her and her home any time.

Jessica, who stays with her aunt, uncle and grandmother at Catherine chawl, on which the 35-year-old low-rise collapsed, is a Std XII student. Her mother lives in Goa. Her pets Kitty and Puffy, aged 10 and 5 respectively, have been with her family since they were born.

The family had moved to the chawl five years ago, along with the dogs, after their residential building went in for redevelopment.

Jessica’s grandmother Catherine said, “I had been to the market and when I returned, I saw the building had fallen on my chawl, and the first thing that came to my mind was: where are my family members and my dogs? But then I saw them outside with my granddaughter and was relieved that they were safe.”

After the incident, Jessica spent her time taking care of them.

“The dogs aren’t eating anything. They are so scared; they don’t know what’s happened. I am trying to feed them biscuits and we will keep trying till they eat,” said Jessica.

Until the family finds a new accommodation, they will reside at a relative’s or friend’s place.