A North Carolina couple had much to talk about when they returned home from their eventful days on Christmas Eve.
Crystal Travis and her 14-year-old daughter, Tori, were driving home after visiting a family member on Dec. 24 when they spotted flames coming out of a nearby house. From a distance, they couldn’t tell if the fire was coming directly from the house or the yard, but the mother-daughter pair sprang into action when they saw the home’s residents rushing to save what they could.
“It was completely intense,” Crystal Travis, 40, of Vale, North Carolina, tells PEOPLE. “At the same time we pulled up, the lady that lives there ran outside with a baby and quickly handed it off to a neighbor and ran right back inside.”
When a man appeared at the door of the home and began tossing Christmas gifts onto the front lawn in a last-ditch effort to save them, Crystal and Tori did their best to carry the items further away from the fire—until an explosion went off that sent everyone running for their lives.
“He just started throwing things out the door to get them out before the fire got them,” Crystal recalls. “Christmas presents, baby stuff, he’s tossing things and we’re collecting them as fast as we could, then the propane tank exploded. It shook the ground and the smoke went crazy and it was hard to breathe. It was loud, you could feel the shockwave moving around.”
After the explosion, Crystal says everyone knew it would be too dangerous to go near the house again, so they waited for first responders to arrive. When the family left the scene, Tori called her father, Roger Travis, to tell him about their harrowing ordeal. The family then made plans to meet at a restaurant he was near—but when Crystal and Tori arrived, Roger was nowhere to be found.
As he made his way to the restaurant, Roger noticed a group of people gathered near a car outside a local mall. Roger, a former medic and firefighter who now owns his own roofing business, instinctively felt something was awry. Thinking he came across the scene of a car accident, Roger pulled over and grabbed his medical bag—and that’s when he saw a baby boy on the ground who had stopped breathing. Roger helped to administer CPR until the baby gasped for air.
“I was praying to God, I asked God, ‘Please, please let the baby take a breath,’ ” Roger recalls. “I cried as soon as he started breathing.”
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Roger says he received a phone call from the boy’s grandfather, telling him that the baby was released from the hospital on Wednesday, and suffered no apparent injuries from the seven minutes he was unable to breathe. Crystal says when Roger finally arrived that evening, she wasn’t surprised at all to hear his story because he’s the type of person to help when someone is in need.
But Roger says he is more impressed by his wife and daughter than anything he did that day.
“I’m more proud of them than I am myself. They could have gotten killed doing what they did,” he says. “I believe God put us at the right place at the right time, and, right now, I’m more concerned about the two families who still need help.”
The family’s brave actions on Christmas Eve come near the anniversary of the family’s own turbulent day.
Six years ago, on Dec. 23, a car slammed into their living room after it flew off a nearby roadway. The accident forced the family to spend Christmas and the next two months in a hotel. This experience immediately came to mind when Crystal found out the family she helped is currently living out of a hotel until they can find a new home. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help them recover from the fire.
“We have gone through something similar, and when you go through something like that, it’s overwhelming and chaotic,” Crystal says. “As neighbors and friends, if you see something, stop to help even if you can’t do anything, you can call somebody or hug somebody. That could be you sitting in their situation.”