The title of my last post was “What a Difference a Day Makes.” I had no idea. A little over 24 hours ago, my house burned to the ground, leaving my family with nothing but the clothes on our backs, our cars, and the contents of our garage. So much has happened in the time since then and I want to share all of it with you. And I will, as soon as I get the chaos of the last day organized inside my head. For now, I’ll just give the details of the first couple of hours, since I know that’s what everybody wants to know.
It was Wednesday night, after church. Everyone had gone home and we had finally gotten everybody in the car when a police cruiser turned into the church parking lot. The policewoman got out of her car and walked up to the car and I rolled down the window and asked, “Hi, can I help you?” She said she was looking for my husband. My mind went to any past speeding ticket or something he hadn’t taken care of and I got nothing. My husband said he was who she was looking for and she said, “I hate to have to tell you this, but your house is completely engulfed.” What?! “Oh my God.”
My husband went to his parents house next door to tell them the news, my sons started asking questions, and my oldest daughter started crying. I did what all moms do in situations like this and kept my cool and comforted them the best I could. My husband got back in the car and we followed the police car to our burning home.
We saw the smoke and lights of the firetrucks before anything else. I think we were secretly hoping it was the neighbor’s house. We knew better, of course. How in the world would she have known where to find us? The neighbors knew where we were and told her. We turned onto the street and yes, it was our house. We climbed out of our car and walked over to watch with the neighbors as our house burned. It was unreal. The neighbors described the first flames and one neighbor told us of his attempt to go in the house to make sure everyone, including the pets, were not in there. He didn’t get very far because the heat and smoke were unbearable. Fortunately, the pets were left outside and we were 15 miles away.
Pretty soon, the Red Cross and the News showed up. My husband went with the Red Cross volunteers (two of the sweetest people I’ve ever met) and I carefully avoided the news guy. I was not going on television. I don’t even like to see myself in pictures, much less on the 11 o’clock news. He asked my son where his mother was, but my mother-in-law told him I didn’t want to be interviewed. I checked the news channel’s website later and the headline was “House Fire Leaves Family of Seven Homeless.” Homeless. Wow, what an impact that word had on me. More about that another time.
While we stood on the lawn across the street, 6 church members arrived, within 30 minutes. Word travels fast in a small town. There were hugs, assurances of prayer, promises of help, and condolences. There was no crying. There was no despair. There was even some laughing. I know people were waiting for me to lose it–to cry, to turn inward and go silent, something. But I didn’t and I haven’t. I’m sure it is partly because the enormity of the loss hasn’t fully sunken in, but mostly it’s because I know now as I knew then, that everything is going to be okay.
I would like to tell you the different ways people reacted to The Event.
Husband: “It’s time to put our money where our mouths are.” (I will explain this in my next post. This is the most exciting part of the story and I can’t wait to tell you about it.)
Me: “I feel like someone is trying to teach me a colossal lesson.”
Aidan (the 12-year-old): I hope the dog’s okay (he disappeared while the firetrucks were there, scared out of his mind.) and “Everything I own is paper or plastic,” his realization that he wouldn’t be able to salvage anything from the wreck.
Fire Chief: “Total Loss.” Well, I have to disagree with that and you will see why in my next post.
Mikey (almost 11): Silent crying.
Molly (8-year-old): Immediate sobbing and lamenting of “all my dolls and my bathing suit.” Brief fun rolling down the neighbor’s ditch with her brother, and then more crying and “All my stuff was in there!”
Anna (19-month-old): No clue what was happening, but definitely knew something was. She’s fought sleep ever since.
Billy (5-year-old): Standing on the curb, looking at the black, burning shell of our house, he points to the porch, which is only slightly damaged and says, “Look at the porch! It is MESSED UP!!”
That’s my boy. Make ’em laugh. The alternative is much too depressing.