Mid-November 2013, our family home burned to the ground on a peaceful Sunday afternoon. My oldest daughter and I were watching a Lord of the Rings installment in the living room. My middle son and youngest daughter were playing quietly in the backroom... a little too quietly, in hindsight.
I had homemade pizza in the oven, and Chris was on his way back home from picking up a canoe an hours drive away. At around 5pm, the younger kids ran in, with bizarre looks on their faces. "what's the matter?" I asked. "nothing" they said in unison. A few minutes later, I got up to check the pizza and smelled something acrid. As I opened the oven door to see what was wrong, I realized that the smell was coming from down the hall, towards the backroom. I looked down the hall to see orange flickering and black smoke through the glass french door - and heard my 2 dogs, whimpering. Bolting to the door, I swung it open to an explosion of flames - they were so fast and furious - the smoke so thick and strangling that I could not see or breathe while trying to get my dogs out. I ran back to the doorway, screaming at the animals to get out - but the only sound was now violent crackles in a deafening roar. I yelled to the dogs to forgive me for leaving them, but the kids were screaming in the kitchen and the fire was rushing to get us if we did not move fast. I pushed the kids out the kitchen door and told them to start running to my neighbour's house. Realizing I hadn't called 911, I went back into the house, hearing "911, what's your emergency?"... the phone went dead.
The fire was now all around and there was nothing to do but run.
Once outside, with no shoes or coat, I watched the house go up with the raging wind, a massive version of the many bonfires we have at the beach in summertime. The kids were running and screaming as I drove toward them. Stopping for a few seconds - I pulled each one in through the driver side door with one hand, throwing them over me into the passenger seat. "Hold on!" I screamed, and gunned it to safety. The firetrucks arrived a few minutes later, and Chris came home to a horrible scene - Being a volunteer firefighter, he tried to help, but was held back - his emotions were running too high from not knowing where we were. Once the family had reunited, the kids were taken to a friend's place, Chris went down to try to save the vehicles and garage, and I stood hundreds of feet down the driveway watching my home incinerate.
Our neighbours, friends and community came quickly to our aid with warm clothing, food, toys and emergency funds - We are so grateful. We are planning our future here with more attentiveness and efficiency than ever possible. A blessing in disguise.
Since then, I've gone through some very tough psychological and emotional states. However, what has come from this is a strength I didn't know I had. I feel different - in a good way. I no longer smoke, guzzle alcohol or sugary drinks, consume anything without thinking about it first, nor do I allow others to negatively encroach upon my mindfulness. That may not seem like much, but for me, after a couple decades of mild debauchery in the pretense of being an 'artist', it is huge.
Sometimes we need a wake-up call - it's too bad mine had to come at such a cost.
|A charred remnant in the snowy ruins - photo: C. Fisher|