Fifth-grader Diana Loveras was her “cool and collected” self Monday night at the Valley Stream Village Hall, where adult after adult lauded her for her lifesaving actions in the fire that ravaged her home last week.
“Thank you,” Diana, 10, said quietly with a smile and a gleeful lift of her shoulders as Mayor Edwin Fare handed her a proclamation recognizing her bravery.
The Kiwanis Club Of the Five Towns presented the family a total of $500 in Target gift cards, part of the group’s new fundraising program to help homeless fire victims, while the mayor and village board members also gave Diana another Target gift card.
“Diana, you certainly did a tremendous job, “the mayor said.
Exactly one week ago, the girl awakened early to smoke in the house and alerted her mother, then clambered out the window with her two younger siblings before calmly telling a 911 operator what was going on. The family in the upstairs apartment also escaped, and since then, the Loveras family has been living with father Alex Loveras’ sister in Valley Stream.
The fire chief at the scene, Gene O’Brien, had described Diana as “calm, cool and collected” in reporting the facts to him.
After the Village Hall ceremony, Diana was a little speechless. The girl’s principal spoke of her intelligence. The mayor joked she had a future in the local fire department — “Let’s sign her up.” Her friends, teachers and school staff posed with her and the village board for photos.
“I felt like . . . I don’t know how I really felt,” said the girl, looking like a little Audrey Hepburn in clothes and black flats donated to her.
It was almost like a dream come true for Diana.
“Ever since I was 6 or 7, I wanted to be on camera,” said Diana, imagining herself in a news program but never in the news being called “a hero.”
Her father, a custodian at East Rockaway schools, said he was overwhelmed by the donations and support that both school districts have given his family.
“I don’t know how I can ever say thank you,” Alex Loveras said. “They showed me how much they love me.”
Diana’s principal, teacher and school social worker described her as a selfless child who has been more concerned about the needs of her younger siblings than her own.
As the 10-year-old girl noted, they had lost a lot but not everything.
“I’m glad everybody’s OK,” Diana said, “and I hope soon I can . . . have my normal life back.”