Jalen Watkins awoke in the middle of the night to find his room filled with black smoke. The 17-year-old had to act fast to get out, jumping out of his second-story window onto a patio and screaming for help. It was terrifying for Jalen, not only because of the fire but because his mother, Yvonne, was still trapped inside.
Jalen started screaming — shouting that his mom was trapped in the fire and begging for help. Luckily, Jalen and Yvonne’s neighbor, Raymond Dillard, heard his cries for help. As people crowded around the home and waited for firefighters to arrive on the scene, Jalen struggled against them, wanting to go back in for his mother. Raymond was one of the people holding him back until Yvonne could be heard groaning near the door. They worked quickly to break down the door and reach in to help her out of the burning home.
Yvonne is currently in a medically induced coma at Temple University Hospital recovering from severe burns. Jalen has seen signs that his mom recognizes him and will make a recovery. “When I was talking to her one-on-one she opens her eyes and is holding my hand and responding — yes and no — nodding and shaking her head. That brought a lot of joy to me. It let me know my mom is still there,” Jalen told CBS3 Philly.
The family faces struggles beyond her recovery, however. The equipment Yvonne used to run her catering company, Nela J. Catering, was ruined in the fire. Jalen, a high school senior with a 4.0 GPA, is also working on college applications in the midst of this tragedy. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the family through this trying time.