Vania Masaya and her two children were three of thousands of commuters stranded on I-95 in Virginia on Monday, as freezing temperatures and rapid snowfall brough traffic to a halt for almost 24 hours straight.
The Maryland mom told the Today show Wednesday morning that after more than 12 hours sitting in the car, she began to worry for her children’s safety. The family was rescued by medical personnel, who allowed them to warm up and wait out the jam in an ambulance until the next morning.
By 8 a.m. Tuesday, Masaya and her kids were finally able to go home.
Stranded Mom Recounts Survival Story
Masaya said she and her two kids were traveling along I-95 early Monday morning when traffic came to a standstill.
For a while, the family simply passed time in the car, but as the hours dragged on, Masaya ran out of gas. With the temperature dropping and no end in sight, the mom pleaded with emergency personnel to take her children to safety.
“I was begging, ‘Can you please just take my kids? You don’t need to take us, just take my kids, please,'” Masaya said. “I kept thinking, ‘They’re going to die in this cold.'”
“It was freezing,” she recalled Wednesday morning. “My daughter’s cheeks were so cold.”
The emergency workers escorted Masaya and her family to an ambulance, where they were able to rest and warm up — 12 hours after they encountered the traffic jam.
The family finally began to make their way back home around 8 a.m. on Tuesday, after more than a full day on the freezing highway.
“A Maryland mother was worried her kids were going to freeze when they ran out of gas after being ‘two hours away from home’ for 36 hours,” local reporter Drew Wilder reported on Twitter Tuesday morning. “A firefighter found them and let them sleep in an ambulance last night.”
Vania Masaya, Thousands Others Stuck
Masaya and her children were among the countless Virginia commuters trapped for hours on end in the cold Monday and Tuesday.
Wilder tweeted quotes from drivers in similar situations just as the traffic jam began to let up by Tuesday morning.
“My kids haven’t eaten in 26 hours,” one commuter said.
“I had to get out of my car and use the restroom in the middle of the road at 4 a.m.,” said another.
Among the travelers stuck on I-95 was U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a Democrat who represents Virginia.
“I started my normal 2 hour drive to DC at 1pm yesterday,” the senator wrote on Twitter at 5 a.m. Tuesday.
“Nineteen hours later, I’m still not near the Capitol. My office is in touch with [the state Department of Transportation] to see how we can help other Virginians in this situation. Please stay safe everyone.”
Despite the desperate conditions, no injuries were reported when the 36-hour saga finally came to a close just before noon on Tuesday.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam told reporters that state troopers and Department of Transportation crews were working nonstop to relieve the thousands of stranded commuters.
“This has been a difficult night for a lot of folks,” the governor said. “I’m very sorry that people have been stranded. We’re doing everything we can to get to these individuals, whether it be [giving them] water or a place to be warm.”