Tuesday, December 01, 2015

That was then, this is now

December 1, 2010: The fire started in the basement.

My office, after the firefighters smashed every window on the 1st floor.

It was 5 years ago today that we were woken up at 5:30 am by the wail of smoke detectors.
PLEASE make sure you have working smoke detectors and don't take the batteries out if they go off while you're cooking and annoy you. That's their purpose.

It was 5 years ago today that we fled our smoke-filled, burning home in bare feet and pajamas.
Don't worry about what you'd take with you. Just go. Make sure everyone in your family understands that and has an exit plan. You have no idea how fast smoke can fill a house. And it can kill. 

It was 5 years ago today that we stood outside, shivering in the pre-dawn cold watching our house burn and hearing the sirens come.

It was 5 years ago today that we were so damned lucky to be alive and unharmed, huddled together, holding onto our dog, who had the good sense to be barking her head off by the door instead of hiding somewhere in the house.

It was 5 years ago today when I understood what was important and what was not.
I have a different relationship to things now. I want less clutter. Fewer things. 
 It was 5 years ago today when I started to learn about the importance of community and accepting help and support from others. 
It was hard for me to accept support. Some days, it still is, but I'm working on it. 5 years on, and I can still tear up thinking about the generosity and caring of the people in my life: neighbors, family, friends both local and distant, people I knew in 'meatspace' and those I had met through the 'net. 
And 5 years later, I think this may be the first anniversary since the fire when I didn't think about it all day. In fact, I had pretty much forgotten what day it was until just a few minutes ago. And I'm not even sure what reminded me. 

I'm no longer spooked by sirens. The smell of a fireplace no longer sends my heart pounding. (But I still can't drink the smokey scotches - they taste the way my house smelled after the fire.) I don't have nightmares anymore. I do look for smoke detectors everywhere I go and I always consider how I would get out of a building or a home in case of an emergency. I suspect I will do that for the rest of my life.

Mostly, I remain grateful. Grateful for my husband's alertness and quick reflexes. He was the one who realized that annoying sound wasn't his pager or the alarm clock and got us all roused and out of the house quickly - maybe in 45 seconds after the detector went off. Grateful that my family (and pup!) were unharmed. Grateful that we had insurance and could have our home back. Grateful for a brick house that we could come back to. Grateful for the love and support we received when we needed it.

If there is anything I would urge you to do it would be this: check your smoke detectors, accept help when you are in need, and always remember to pay it forward.


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