“Please, Lord, not another fire—not this again.” That was all I could say Monday morning as I saw the fire trucks lining our block and smelled that the blaze was near.
Looking up towards the sky I could see glowing orange embers that had floated across our building’s roof. Were they enough to alight and ignite? I hoped (I prayed—I hoped some more) that wasn’t possible.
We went to our hallway. A neighbor who lives on the west side of our building let us into her apartment to see how serious it was. One of the houses directly behind us was burning—completely engulfed in flames. It was horrifying and hypnotic to watch.
Could it reach us? Should we pack up? Were we about to be affected by another fire—again displaced from our home—more of our possessions lost? We tried to wrangle our cats. Several scratches (and lot of hissing) later they were crated and mad at us.
My brain raced. My eyes welled with tears. What do we take if we have to evacuate? Passports. Wallets. Documents. Laptops. Car keys. What about the irreplaceable pictures of deceased loved ones—my mother, for instance?
Fortunately, it did not come to that. We were told evacuation wouldn’t be necessary—that we should simply close all our windows. So we released our cats and went for a walk around the neighborhood to escape the omnipresent smell of smoke.
We circled the block with our steps and saw that the fire was coming under control. Firefighters were winning the fight, but their victory would not be realized before the flames had completely incinerated a family’s home.
For most watching the local news Monday morning, it was just another fire. But for us, and those in our apartment building, it was a danger all too real coming all too close for a second time.
Five years ago, the day after Christmas, the fire trucks were for us. A fire raged just one floor above our apartment and separated us from our home and most of our possessions—some forever, some for ten months.
I thought I’d successfully learned to live with less and to care less about things after that—to let go of clinging to material matters. But as another fire burned so close to home and I weighed in my mind what I should and could carry if we had to leave, I realized I wasn’t as ready or able to relinquish my possessions as I’d previously believed.
As I stood on the sidewalk Monday morning watching the firefighters at work, I couldn’t help but remember how jealous I’d felt of our fire’s gawkers—those who could watch without the worry felt by those of us affected directly.
On Monday I felt selfish to be so grateful that another’s sorrow wasn’t my own. Grateful that we could return to our stuff and home comforts this time—that we wouldn’t have to figure out what to take and what to leave behind.
I hoped and I prayed (and I hoped some more) that (as was in the case of our fire five years ago) no lives were claimed by the inferno.
My heart was grieved for the loss I knew they were feeling, but mostly I just felt grateful to be a voyeur instead of a victim.