By Tony DeGol
Even a disastrous fire just days before Christmas has not stopped Anastazia Hall from counting her many blessings.
In mid-December, a blaze ripped through the Hollidaysburg apartment complex that Hall called home.
A member of Saint John Gualbert Cathedral in Johnstown, where she plays the organ and trumpet, Hall had resided at the apartment building for the past several months. She moved there when she began her career as an elementary band director in the Altoona Area School District.
She was teaching on that fateful day when word of the fire spread. A friend offered to drive by the complex to see if Hall’s apartment was affected.
When Hall learned that it was, she went to the scene not knowing what to expect.
“On the drive over, I was thinking I learned a really quick lesson that belongings don’t matter,” she recalled. “I thought about the things in my apartment, and I didn’t care.”
When Anastazia arrived, she felt at peace.
“In that situation, everyone was calling me and texting me and asking if I was okay,” she said. “Honestly, I didn’t feel like I needed anything, and I still really don’t.”
Her beloved cat, Lucy, was her primary concern. The feline’s fate seemed in question, but Hall did not give up hope. Eventually, she received the great news that a firefighter found Lucy alive.
“She was cradled in his arms and looking at me with her big eyes and meowing at me,” Hall added. “I’ll never forget that moment.”
An animal hospital checked out Lucy and kept her for a few days, but she is fine.
Hall’s material possessions did not fare as well, however. A few personal items were recovered, but most of her belongings were damaged or destroyed.
Not surprisingly, Hall is not dwelling on the setback.
“I could be really sad and upset that I lost all those things that I worked so hard to build up here in Altoona as I moved into the area,” she stated. “I see it more as a blessing the way God looked out for me, the way He has inspired me to share my story. I learned how many people love me and that in any situation, people love you, people care about you, they want to help you, they want to be there for you. It has really touched my life a lot.”
Among those offering that love and support are Hall’s friends from Saint John Gualbert Cathedral, including music director Evonne Yanzetich-Homway.
“Even with the tragedy of fire, Anastazia has been strongly rooted in her Catholic faith,” Homway observed. “Never once has she said ‘why me?’ She has great resolve that has always shone in her commitments to family, church, and community.”
Homway calls Hall a humble young woman who is very grateful for the outpouring of generosity.
“From monetary donations, to furniture, clothes, and even donations for Lucy the cat, her local music and church families have all have pitched in to assist her in the aftermath of this devastating fire,” Homway added. “We all respect and love her very much. There was never a question of ‘if ‘ we were going to help, but ‘what’ we could do to make things a little easier for her. The Holy Spirit works through us all so that no one should walk alone through life’s tribulations.”
Hall has found a new apartment for her and Lucy.
As she looks to the future, her faith and optimism are stronger than ever.
“God is with me now and He’s been with me this whole time,” she maintained. “For those people who are struggling with something, He’s always there. Even if it seems like it’s terrible, He’s going to get you through it. He’s gotten me through.”
For someone who lost so much, Hall feels like she has everything.
“I feel full, and I feel very satisfied just by my faith and by knowing that God is with me and just knowing the family I have and the friends I have, and I have realized that’s what really matters in life,” she continued. “I learned that belongings and material things can be taken away, and it can be upsetting, but in the end that’s not what matters.”
[Editor’s Note: See more of Anastazia Hall’s story on Proclaim! TV on January 12 at 10:30 a.m. on WATM ABC 23.]