One year. 365 days; 8,765 hours; 525,948 minutes; 31,556,926 seconds.
It is hard to believe that today marks one year since our family faced something that we never thought would happen to us, you know, one of those things that happen to "other people". One year ago, we were the other people. A year ago today, right about noon, our house caught fire.
Although it was hard to say last year when this happened, we were lucky, if a fire in our house was something that had to happen, for whatever reason, it happened in the best way it could- during the day when no one was upstairs. I still get sick to my stomach when I think of how things might have been if it had happened at night.
The fire started in Anna's room, very close to her bed. It quickly took over the window area, which was one of our planned escape routes for Anna and Jacob (both of their rooms were upstairs). Thankfully, when the fire started, Anna was not in her room. She had taken Emma and the dog for a walk. I was on night shift at the time and was asleep in my room downstairs. Jacob was in the basement playing video games. David was at work. I remember dreaming about smoke, thinking a neighbor must have been outside burning leaves. I remember thinking how dumb that was in the middle of August, didn't they realize how dry it was outside?! It is crazy what you think when you are half asleep? Jacob told me that he smelled something but he wasn't at a safe point in his game and that as soon as he got there he was going to check out the smell. Luckily, Anna got back before that.
She came in the back door and saw that the house was full of smoke. I heard her come in and tell her brother to get out. She then came to my room and told me that I needed to get up, that there was smoke in the house. I remember thinking it was a joke or an exaggeration. I got up and yeah, it was hazy. I thought it was because I was tired and didn't have my glasses on. I got them on and realized that yeah, the house was full of smoke. I went to grab the phone and realized that I had left it in the living room. By the time I found it and made my way to the back door, the smoke was very thick.
When I got out the back door I called 911 and told them the house was full of smoke. It was rolling out of the eaves of the house. I hung up with them and called David. I told him that the house was full of smoke and that I had called 911. One of our neighbors met me there and took the kids and the dog to her house. I then walked around the front of the house. I still can remember the sound and the smell and the horror of seeing the front of my house on fire. I think to that point I thought it was just smoke. Of course it stands to reason that if there was smoke there was going to be fire, but at that moment, I hadn't grasped that. I then became one of those people, who called 911 back. If I had been of clear mind I would have known that the fire department was on the way, that other neighbors had already called, but at that moment I needed to call back and tell them that there was indeed fire and that it was fully involved. As a 911 dispatcher myself, I should have known that I didn't need to call back, that help was on the way, but at that moment I wasn't that dispatcher anymore. I remember standing there feeling so helpless and so doomed. I am so glad that the kids never saw the front of the house and the actual fire.
My kind neighbor who took the kids came back and stood there with me. I don't know that I had hardly ever spoken with her before that day, but on that day she was so kind and stood there with me as I watched my house burn. I remember hearing the fire trucks coming and thinking they sounded like they were a million miles away and moving further away. Thankfully we live just blocks from a full time fire station. A lot of the towns around here have volunteer departments, but our town has a full time paid department. I have been so thankful for that so many times over. A friend who dispatches here in the town I live in told me that the first truck arrived within 2 minutes of the dispatch. It seemed like a million years.
David got home very quickly. He was on duty and came in his squad car. He won't say for sure, but I am pretty sure he responded lights and sirens all the way. I was so thankful to have him there with me.
Once they let us go in, it didn't seem so bad, at least downstairs. The downstairs looked the same, well except for the water coming through the ceiling. Going up the stairs though was like night and day. Although the fire was contained to Anna's room, the entire upstairs was pure devastation. The smoke and extreme heat had charred and melted everything. It was so sickening. I think the hardest thing I ever had to do was to go to Anna and tell her that it was her room and that she had lost everything. Jacob lost everything in his room also, but had the majority of his stuff in the basement. For Anna though, who is very sentimental over things, it was especially rough.
I could write for days about the whole experience, the tough days ahead, the headaches of construction, but instead I want to spend today thinking about the kindness of others and feelings of gratitude. I was to remember today about how sweet Anna's friend Aleyshia was to ride a mile on a bike with flat tires so she could be with her. I want to remember the kindness of a neighbor who took in my kids and kept them safe and distracted. I want to remember a co-worker who arrived with a cooler of cold Dr Pepper, sandwiches, and Little Debbie brownies, who worked in the heat to help move important things to a safe place. I want to remember the love and support of family who will drop everything to come and stand beside you. I want to remember the generosity of others and be grateful for really good insurance. I want to be thankful that there are men and women who are willing to face danger and battle the elements in order to preserve and save your property. I think it is important to remember that in trying times it is okay to lean on others and accept help, which is something that is very hard for me.
And although it may sound materialistic, I want to celebrate my house today and what she means to us. When David and I bought this house almost 5 years ago, we vowed that this was a forever house for us. We vowed that we would grow old in this house together and would raise our family here. . . that we would spend our days rocking on the front porch. To us, this wasn't just a house, this was a home, a symbol of who we are and what we dreamed of. Despite what occurred last August 15th, this house stood strong. She faced many trying days but through it all, she remained. We were told that if our house had been new construction, the damage would have been more severe. It is amazing to think that over 85 years ago, with out the convenience of many of today's modern equipment that this house was built strong enough to weather this storm and remain strong and victorious.
We have learned so much this year. I can't say I am glad for the circumstances, but I am grateful for the lessons learned. There are so many things in this life that can be gone in an instant, sometimes losing all of the 'clutter' really helps you remember what is important.