SYCAMORE – Laynee Sosin was already leaving Building B at the St. Albans Green apartment complex on July 27 when the fire alarms began, but she knew that one of her neighbors needed help. While her family evacuated their apartment, she ran down the hallway banging on doors until she got to the door of her neighbor, Sonja “Dodie” Jensen.
Without stopping to knock, Sosin, who will begin eighth grade today, went in to help evacuate Jensen.
“My mom and stepdad always raised me to be humble and appreciate my things,” she said. “Family and friends can’t be replaced.”
Helping grab medication and Jensen’s oxygen tank, Sosin got her neighbor out of the building.
Sosin’s mother, Michelle Sosin, said at first she was worried when the family was outside the building but could not find Laynee. When her daughter did emerge with their neighbor, Michelle said she was overwhelmed with emotion.
“She was not thinking of her own things, she was thinking of someone who was like a grandmother to her,” Michelle said.
When events calmed down after the fire, and the Sosins were settled in a motel, when friends and community members asked resident Michelle what they could do to help, her answer was simple: “Feed my neighbors.”
In a room donated by the Sycamore Public Library on Aug. 4, that’s exactly what happened. Members of the Sycamore community, including representatives from Bethel Assembly of God, brought in cooked food to feed the apartment residents.
The residents in turn attended the event. At any time, about 20 people of all ages piled into the small room.
“Today is about giving them a sense of normalcy,” Michelle said. “We’re all getting together and hanging out like we would in the hallways at the apartment. It’s the rebuilding process; we’re all trying to cope together.”
At the event, while trying to explain the reaction of the community, Michelle dashed into the children’s section of the library and returned with the book “Stone Soup” by Marcia Brown.
“It’s about a town of hungry people, who all decide to come together and each put something into a soup for them all to eat. In this way, they become friends,” she said.
Although the Sosin family’s own copy of “Stone Soup” was lost in the fire, the values it holds continue to be practiced by their neighbors and their community.
Laynee’s courage in the face of danger has earned her some accolades. She was recognized for her actions and the event, but had not been told beforehand.
“Dodie’s family wanted to do that,” Michelle said.
Laynee said she was overwhelmed when they recognized her.
“I felt really loved,” she said.
Laynee said she already looks forward to taking fire science during her junior year of high school, with plans on becoming a firefighter. She thanked the firefighters who came out the night of the fire and members of the community who supported the displaced residents.
“It’s really nice to see the community come together,” Laynee said.
For those inclined, donations can be sent to the residents of St. Albans through the Family Services Agency.
“People can donate money, even clothes. Lots of kids, they literally lost everything. Even a stuffed animal would comfort them,” Michelle said.
• Kevin Solari contributed to this story.