We watch and listen to daily newscasts of multiple traumatic situations that occur within our community and throughout our world. Sympathetic to the families whose lives are affected, until the routine and demands of our day blur our memory of the event.
Forgotten about until it becomes our tragedy, until it is our lives or our neighborhood affected…
It is a mild December evening around 7:00 when the first siren is heard. It is a Monday night and our subdivision traffic is minimal as it usually is on a weeknight.
Living on a “T” in the road, cars have to slow down as they take the turn approaching our house. That is why we rush to the window when we see red lights and sirens and hear the screeching tires as they speed past our front window.
The dog barks frantically as my husband and I look out the window to see a police car pulling over up the street. More sirens follow close behind as fire engines, an ambulance and multiple emergency vehicles converge at the corner of the streets that were quiet moments before.
I can’t see the exact location in the dark, but my stomach sinks knowing that whatever is happening, it is not good. Our friends who live in the general area of all this commotion are my first phone call and I ask, “What the hell is going on up there?”
That’s when I hear Sue’s quivering voice and she says, “The house behind us is on fire, the back of the house is engulfed in flames! Oh my god, the sparks are flying onto our house too!”
My husband leaves our house to walk up the street as many other neighbors are, praying that everyone got out before the inferno. My heart pounds from the adrenaline common during crisis as I hear details from my friend. I realize the magnitude of this situation as I see plumbs of yellow-orange flames filling the night sky.
We learn from others that three family members were home, lighting a fireplace to warm the damp air when smoke suddenly fills their house. Thankfully, they have enough time to gather their dogs, remove the vehicles in the garage and run outside before the flames threaten their lives.
It takes over three hours to contain the stubborn flames from the chimney fire and even longer for the emergency departments to leave our neighborhood.
It is quiet once more; however, this time the quiet is disheartening and now everything has changed. There is a scarred and crumpled outline of where a house used to stand and fragments of treasured possessions that are irreplaceable.
Yes, life was not lost so we are grateful. But how do families like this who have had such a traumatic event happen, continue to live while the rest of the world returns to their busy routines?
We know this family’s name, we know their faces. When we see the news report showing the charred remains of this burnt home, it is one we go past many times each day.
They are all reminders to us that life changes quickly and that life is fragile. Reminding us that bad things happen to good people and that neighbors need to help one another when devastating losses occur.
Maybe this is the true meaning of the holiday season? As I look up the street now and see Christmas lights adorning houses and people getting ready, I hope that they truly see what is important in their own lives when they look outside their windows.