An act of heroism by 20-year-old Timmy Cassell who died Aug. 23 after rescuing six members of his family from their burning Northeast home has inspired friends and neighbors to action of their own.
A trust fund has been established by Walter Jones Jr., president of the D.C. Skunks Athletic Association in Northeast Washington, to help Cassell's mother, Dorothy Cassell, and future victims of neighborhood tragedies.
"We're trying to get her a house," said Jones, and all the things that are necessary to run a house, since many things in the house were destroyed in the morning fire.
Jones had known Timmy since he was 9 years old, and had given him odd jobs at the athletic center. He listened to the young man's unfolding dreams. "He wanted to a boxer," Jones said. "His thing was he just didn't get the break in life. He would have made a good boxer."
Shortly before his death, Cassell confided in Jones that he was going to see an Army recruiter, thinking that would be the best way to further his education and make something of himself, Jones said.
"We're asking the people for anything they do have that they can contribute," Jones said. The athletic association's phones are open from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. every day for people who want to pledge household goods, food, clothes and money. The numbers are 724-5590 or 724-5591.
Jones is asking that people who want to contribute money to the Timmy Cassell Foundation send their checks to the D.C. Skunks Athletic Association, 823 H. St. NE, Washington D.C. 20002.
"The kids in the immediate area around here in Northeast are beautiful," Jones said. When a box for contributions was put up at the center, he said, the kids who come there "were bringing in every nickle and dime they could scrape." A week after Cassell's death, the young people at the center had contributed more than $300, Jones said.
Neighbors have been bringing boxes of clothing, hot meals and other items to the family and to the center.
One of the first people to make a donation to the new foundation was Walter Dickerson, the assistant manager of the Safeway store at 610 H. St. NE. He said Cassell "was a nice young man. He was concerned about his people.
"He used to come in the store quite a bit," Dickerson said, and "he knew lots of young fellows who would try to come in and hustle." If there was "any hassle in the store, he was always there," trying to calm it down, Dickerson said. "He was concerned,e ven though he was young himself."
Now Cassell's mother, her four daughters, one sone and five grandchildren are living in the burned two-story brick rowhouse at 1015 Florida Ave. NE, with sheets of plastic covering the broken out windows and blistered paint throughout the first floor and stairway, according to First Battallion Fire Chief Joseph Kitt.
There is no gas or electricity in the house, which is "coated with carbon and smoke," Kitt said. The September rent is due and they have no money. There is light in only one room. Electricity for that is provided by a chain of extension cords plugged in at the next-door neighbor's house.
The Fire Department has identified the cause of the blaze as children playing with matches in the first floor bedroom. In response to a Washington Star article which quoted Cassell's sister as saying it took the fire department at least a half hour to respond to the fire, Battallion Chief Francis X. Flaherty said, "It took us one minute. The fire house is two blocks away" at 1342 Florida Ave. NE.
"A woman called in and said the whole house was smoking" at 9:58 a.m, Flaherty said. Engine No. 10 from the Florida Ave. company reported on the scene at 9:59 a.m., he said.
He said First Battallion Fire Chief Joseph Granados requested an ambulance at 10:05 a.m., and realized only three minutes later that Cassell could not wait for the ambulance to arrive. Rescue Squad One took Cassell to the Washington Hospital Center in the squad wagon then, Flaherty said, and he arrived at the Washington Hospital Center at 10:15 a.m.