On Nov. 26, Qani Toro was eight days away from an unannounced vacation to surprise a family in Albania. He received a call from his mother Luljeta at 9:54 p.m., or 3:54 a.m. on the Balkan Peninsula.
Her tone was frantic, said Toro, a criminal investigator with the Eastern Michigan University Police Department.
“There’s an earthquake,” Toro recalled his mother telling him. “The lights are completely cut out. We can’t open the front door.”
Toro’s parents, as well as his brother’s family, were in the midst of a 6.4-magnitude earthquake that shook their home in the coastal city of Durrës. According to the Associated Press, he incident resulted in 51 deaths across Albania.
While alive, Toro said there was no way his family members were going back into the home, instead choosing to live in a car.
Instead of packing for sunny Albanian beach weather, Toro took the next three weeks to organize outreach for the thousands affected in Durrës, as well as Laç and the capital city of Tirana.
He talked to his supervisor Det. Sgt. Shana Thompson, as well as EMU Police Chief Bob Heighes, to involve the entire department in collecting blankets, warm clothes and money for the victims.
“Of course we’re going to do something,” Thompson said. “It’s his family. I think we owe it to our community to give back. We’re not just law enforcement. We’re community caretakers.”