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Sunday morning, I heard a number of sirens and they seemed to be stopping near us. We live right across the street from an old folks home, so I assumed that it was one of the old folks. When I got out to my car to go to church, a fire truck drove through our parking lot. That's when I noticed the smoke. We have a few friends who live in our condo complex, so I trotted off to find out where the smoke was coming from. One of the Board members from our Home Owner's Association was heading back from the fire so I asked her which building it was. My heart dropped when she told me - we have friends in that building. So I ran towards the building to find my friends. The area had already been roped off and there were a number of residents milling around and a number of fire trucks already on the scene. I searched the crowd but couldn't find my friends - I thought they had already gone to church and didn't know that their condo was on fire. How do you tell someone that their building is on fire? "Hey, Joe, your building's on fire!"

When I found them at church, they said they already knew. Everything seemed to be under control when they were evacuated around 10, so they just went on to church. We stayed for about ten more minutes then decided that we needed to go back to the condo.

By the time we got back, the fire had gone into the roof of the building, the roof had collapsed, and the fire had spread to other units. Our friends were given five minutes to go into their unit and gather up some belongings. Mrs. J came out holding a bag full of photos and other things of sentimental value, some clothes, and some documents. She dropped the bag and reached out for a hug. We stood there crying together and hugging each other while her husband went in to get some more important documents. Mr. J is such a darling. He got the things that were vitally important but he started crying as he told her, "I didn't get anything for you!" He was truly anguished that he'd left behind things he thought were important to his wife. I tried to disappear while they comforted each other and cried together.

Around noon, the fire was under control and the firemen decided that my friends' unit was safe enough to get back into, so they were escorted in again to get some more clothes and valuables - including many musical instruments. Around 3, the firemen were finally wrapping up. The Red Cross had shown up and set up tables with food and water, as well as tables where residents could talk with a Disater Relief representative.

We got a call yesterday afternoon - rain was predicted for tonight and "they" (I'm not quite sure who "they" are) were worried that the roof might completely collapse tonight, so Mr. & Mrs. J were told they needed to move everything out of their unit. ChiaPet went over as soon as he heard the news, I joined them as soon as I got off work.

Mr. & Mrs. J were astounded. "I called 2 people," Mr. J said, "and 30 people showed up to help us move!" The house was full, there were literally times when I couldn't move anywhere because there were too many people in the way. We got all of their belongings packed up and moved out in about two hours.

Their experience got me thinking: You always think it'll never happen to you, and maybe it won't. But what if it does? I tried to imagine what I'd do if I were in their shoes and I realized that many of the important things I'd need to take with me aren't easily accessible.

What would you need to take with you if there was a fire? Is it accessible? What things of sentimental value would you want to take with you? Would you be able to get everything you need and want if you only had five minutes to do it? What if it DID happen to you?

One of my New Year's Resolutions is going to be to make myself more prepared, so that if it does happen, I will be able to get everything I need in five minutes.



Dec. 31st, 2003 08:43 am (UTC)
I'm glad they have such good friends. The idea of fire hitting a home has been terrifying to me for most of my life. When I was about six my family was driving home from my grandparents' home. It was dusk as we went by the scene of a fire, with the fire department still there trying to finish off the last of the active fire. The only thing still standing was the chimney, and I spent the rest of the trip home wondering what had happened to the people who lived there.

We also worry about what would need to be saved in an emergency. We'll need to do major reevaluation when (if?) our construction gets done.

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