HARRIS COUNTY, Texas – On this Thanksgiving, a mother of two is grateful to be alive after she and her kids jumped from the second floor of their burning apartment. She believes someone purposefully set her front door on fire in the Pines of Woodforest Apartments in northeast Harris County.
Latasha Coleman, who goes by Tasha, said she woke up to the sound of her smoke alarm at around 4 a.m.
At first, she thought maybe her heater triggered it off, but when she walked into the living room, she saw her door was on fire.
“I started yelling and screaming, I woke my brother and my kids up,” Coleman said.
She said she started to go into a panic when her kids began coughing and made a lifesaving decision.
“My son is screaming, ‘Mom, I don’t want to burn up, I don’t want to die;’ that’s when I started hitting the window very hard,” Coleman said.
In her mind, she thought they were going to die in the fire, but then looked to a back bedroom window to get out.
She said in the moment she was so frazzled she didn’t even think to lift the latch to open the window and instead used items to break it along with her hand.
“I jumped first, my brother dropped the kids (to her) and thank God that I caught them, and then he jumped last,” Coleman said.
Across the street at another apartment complex, Felicia Hawkins heard glass shattering and thought someone was breaking into cars. She opened her door and then saw Coleman’s apartment on fire.
“I just feel like it was the Holy Spirit that got me up, because out of everybody, I was the one that got up,” said Hawkins, who rushed over to help.
Hawkins said Coleman was shouting for help and said her kids were still inside. By the time Hawkins got around the fence, they had already jumped out the window.
“I had to grab two blankets because there was so much glass down there. By the time I got around here, she had jumped out the window already, because the fire was coming so fast,” explained Hawkins, who helped with the kids after they jumped.
“I’m so thankful that I was able to be a help to her and I mean the smoke was so much, I never choked so much in my life.”
On Thanksgiving Day, the two women embraced each other in the spot where they met for the first time.
“That was very, very brave of you,” said Hawkins, as Coleman shed a tear in her arms.
The mother of two has a bandage wrapped around her left hand and has minor cuts and bruises to her legs.
Now, she and her 3-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son are staying at a temporary unit in the same. She said they lost everything, but she’s grateful.
“I didn't’ know that so many people would help out like this, but I’m just overwhelmed,” Coleman said.
She received two sleeping bags for her kids and an air mattress for herself from some co-workers. They also donated food so the family could have a Thanksgiving.
“All of that is destroyed, but you can always get that back, but I can never get my life back, I’m so thankful to be alive,” Coleman said, “I'm just thankful that I'm alive and my family is here."
WHO DID IT AND WHY?
Coleman said the apartment next to hers is empty and she's convinced someone purposefully set her door on fire.
“Just go ahead and turn yourself in, whoever you are, I don’t know what your intentions were. Like why did you do this, why was I targeted because I have no issues with anyone? I go to work and come home, that’s it,” Coleman said.
She said she’s upset someone would put her children’s lives in danger and doesn't understand why.
“Whoever did it, you knew that I couldn't escape any other way, I couldn't go out my front door, I’m angry, I’m upset," Coleman said.
A Crime Stoppers sign sits on the iron fence as investigators continue to figure how the fire started and who was behind it.
Anyone with information about the fire is urged to call Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.
Coleman said she and her family are now looking for a new place to live and are in need of furniture.