Elauda Seawright-Grisson aka Seawright is a school resource officer serving students in the 16th police district. With big hazel eyes, although her resting face is a smile, the nine-year veteran of the Philadelphia Police department is tough. Her job is to make sure the students she serves get to and from school safely and feel secure in their school environments.
“Children are people too and people tend to forget that,” says Seawright, “so my job is to be here, make sure they are comfortable and give them any addition help and say, ‘yes, I am a police officer and I am here.”
A fateful night.
Seawright says being a police officer was a difference maker on the morning of July 14th, 2023. That is the day her training saved the lives of her family and neighbors.
The evening before was pretty ordinary: she and her girls spent time at the mall followed by dinner and a TV movie. Later that night, around 3am, things took a tragic turn when an electrical fire sparked in the basement of Seawright’s Mount Airy home. She says the cat woke up her 12-year old daughter, Elasia Grisson, who smelled smoke. Elasia woke up her mother, who then went to waken her 18-year-old daughter, Ananda, and 37-year-old sister Carmella. Seawright says the four of them walked the smoke-filled hallway hand in hand, attempting to escape.
“We realized couldn’t go downstairs,” recalled Seawright, “the railing was too hot, so the only way out was the bedroom window.”
Seawright says they went into her second-floor bedroom where she grabbed a bed sheet. She wrapped the sheet around her arm and lowered Elasia down to the ground floor. She then used the same method to lower Ananda. She then tried the same with Carmella.
“My sister wanted me to go first, but I told her ‘you have to go because if anything happens to me, I need you to take care of my girls,’” says Seawright.
Carmella complied. But halfway down, Seawright, overcome by smoke and feeling the heat from the fire, dropped her sister. Carmella, who also has multiple sclerosis, broke her leg in several places. Seawright could hear her sister in pain below.
“The smoke started to take me,” says Seawright, who realized that if she wanted to survive there was only one choice, “so I jumped…I jumped, I didn’t think twice.”
Seawright jumped about 25 to 30 feet to the ground from the second-floor window, making sure not to land on her sister, Carmella. When she landed, she sprained her ankle, but didn’t stop. She realized her neighbors’ homes were full of smoke.
“I immediately woke up my neighbors next door because they are elderly- so I got them out of the house,” says Seawright.
She helped neighbors on both sides of her rowhome.
“I knocked on doors asking people to call 911 and just making sure everyone was safe,” says Seawright.
She did all of this before realizing that she had suffered bruises and burns on her legs and back.
“I didn’t realize I was burned until I got to the hospital,” she says.
Seawright credits her police training and faith for her quick action.
“God gave me wings,” she says, “and while I’ve always been a tough girl- the police training was intense, it’s semi military and it I kicked in and came back second nature.”
A local superhero.
“She’s a superhero. A superhero,” says Jenice Armstrong, columnist at a Philadelphia newspaper, “not all superheroes wear capes.”
She heard about Seawright’s story on an app called, Next Door.
“My jaw dropped when I read [about her],” she says, “I thought, ‘this can’t be true- then I talked to another police officer and confirmed it – then I just had to meet her.”
Armstrong wrote about Seawright in her column, but wanted to do more to help share her story. So she nominated Seawright for the Good Souls Project.
“A good song to me is someone who puts other people’s concerns above their own… someone who doesn’t necessarily think about himself first, but thinks about what can I do to help others,” says Armstrong, “she’s been doing this throughout her career as a police officer.”
Seawright has served the community her entire career in the police department. In 2019, she was honored with the Award of Valor for Meritorious Community Service at a ceremony at the National Liberty Museum. Seawright had been volunteering to provide SAT prep and tutoring, as well as at the police night at the Philadelphia zoo.
“She’s down to earth, very humble, She loves her job and loves helping people,” says Jeannette Meizinger, a police officer in the 16th district. “I figured someone needs to help her at this point.”
Meizinger organized the GoFund me for Seawright, who she says is one of her best friends in the district.
“She’s just a really good person, always smiling,” she says, “we wanted her to know that she’d be taken care of.”
With nearly 500 donations, the GoFundMe effort raised more than $30,000 in just a few weeks.
“I didn’t have to worry about anything at all, not a shoe, not a piece of clothing on my back, not food on my table,” says Seawright, “they all pitched in when it happened and whenever I went to a dark place, they refused to let me go there.”
“We are a family,” says Meizinger, “with so much stuff happening outside of work- with officers passing aways and Mendez being shot – we have to come together for each other.”
On November 3, 2023, the 16th district is continuing their support for Seawright with an in person benefit.
“We just want to get together and show her that we are here for her and her family,” says Natalie Biondo, an officer in the 16th district.
Not a total loss.
“I lost my house,” says Seawright, “but my family is okay and that’s the main thing.
Seawright says her sister, Carmella, has endured four surgeries following the fall out the window last July. The good news is she’s going to be okay.
“I felt so guilty that I dropped her,” says Seawright, “but she told me to let it go- she’s happy we all are here.”
Daughters Elasia and Ananda suffered only minor bruises in the fire. Ananda is now in her freshman year of college. Seawright says it was hard for her to leave so soon after the fire, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“She still calls me every day,” she says.
Seawright says their home in the 8000 block of Fayette Street was supposed to be a fresh start for her and her girls. Their favorite room in the small walk up was the living room where they had wall to wall mirrors.
“We liked to dance a lot,” says Seawright, “that’s where our memories were- we like to be silly and play games.”
Now the home is a total loss. Seawright says she’s living in housing in Elkins Park temporarily. Their goal is to use insurance money to rebuild.
“Things are taking time,” she says, “but it’s going to be new.”
Seawright believes getting through fire and it’s aftermath will be a major triumph.
“When crazy things happen- I’m like ‘I can’t believed that happened,’” she says, “then later- it’ll be my testimony and I can say, ‘I made it through, I made it through.’”
If you know someone who has performed an act of kindness, whether it be big or small and you think they serve as an example of compassion, generosity and service, nominate them here: whyy.org/goodsoulsform.