Memories That Last A Lifetime

memories that last a lifetimeMemories last a lifetime .. whether good or bad. Today as I do every year on December 1st think of  the people who cared. You see 28 years ago my family was devastated by a massive house fire. I can recall the minutes before the fire as if was yesterday and cherish the fact that me, my mom and my brother were all leaving at the same time and my 2 sisters were at school so no-one was hurt.

The Timing

I had come home for lunch that day as being an 8th grader we did that. So like every other day me and my friend Terry walked home and had to be back at school earlier as we were Safety Patrols. I honestly do not remember the walk home nor much about what I ate but I do remember her knock on the door and my mom telling me as I wanted to go upstairs to grab something that it was too late and I had to go as we do not make people wait. As my brother was running out the door to go and get into the car as he and my mom were going somewhere (they actually only did make it down the street to the local gas station when she was told and turned back) and I grumbled something to her and left. That was the soundest advice as the upstairs was in the beginning stages of being engulfed in flames. The smoke and fire alarms were seconds away from being triggered but we were all outside already and did not hear them.

The Walk

As I was walking back to school, I had heard the fire whistles and covered my ears as it was quite loud. I walked 2 blocks when me and Terry approached a post that had a classmate but also an adult with some sort of radio/police something. The classmate told me that it was MY house on fire. Yeah, ok as I was just there so there was no way it was my house. Blah Blah. As I approached my post and started hearing people say that Vara’s house is on fire and it is bad. I ran to find my younger sis to tell her that this may be real and um wow our house could be on fire. We had a little moment of who used the curling iron last and who left it on (that was always me) but I do not think we still believed it could be OUR house. I remember walking away and lining up to go back to class wondering is this real?

The Reality

Reality set in hard when I was taking a math test and was hitting my pencil against my head and looked to my left. I counted the streets and realized that the flames from the roof I saw was my house. MY house. The house that we called home, the house 3 or 4 days before the renovations were complete and brand spanky new carpeting was installed. 3 or 4 days and in a matter of minutes it is all gone.

The Giving of Others

That afternoon was filled with uncertainty. I was let out of school a little bit early that day as I was called down to the office and had to sit on the bench outside the office (been there before for talking during an assembly) and as I heard my the principal talking and I knew it was bad. I sat in the car and only muttered a simple question if my older sis in high school knew. Yeah she did as she is there already. “There” was a very telling word as this was not anything I ever could have imagined. The house we knew and loved had gaping holes in the floors, the walls and the smell of smoke/fire filled the neighborhood. For what came next is a true testament of the good of others.

Your house is gone. As a person you wonder where you will go. As a parent you would sleep anywhere if that meant your kids would  be safe. Our community ensured that we all had a safe place to be (and we had to go to school the next day!) I went to my friend Terry’s house where there were 10 kids, yes 10 and for that day I was certainly number 11. They were and still are the epitome of family. We only had the clothes on our backs and the secret stash that my mom had hidden for Christmas. They reeked of smoke but they were clothes.  We all were safe and that was truly what mattered. Our friends took us in, they washed our clothes, fed us, they cared for us … our community found us a place to live as a family and brought the true meaning of Christmas to light.

As a parent now, I have no idea how my mom dealt with a 16 yr old, a 12 yr old, an 11 yr old and a 4 yr old and coming to terms with losing a home and the overwhelming giving from others. The fire department was all volunteer. These men and women left their paying jobs to come and try and save the house. It was a 4 alarm I think so there were a lot of trucks and fire fighters. They were there for hours. Heck, at one point after school let out, it felt like the entire town was standing on the front lawn. The outpour of support was just incredible.

I will always stop and think about that day and how the people in our small town were so giving. I donate all that I can and have outlined ways that I give thanks by giving back and ask that you do the same. The online community is one that we all cherish but your local community is where the heart is. My story is not unique as this happens every day and every day someone is in need of a helping hand. Reach out and let them know you care.

photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography

  • Wow Suzanne, that must’ve been bad. I have thought about losing everything every time I see of those disasters on TV, from the late floods we had in the north to the earthquakes we had a few years ago.
    I honestly cannot imagine it to its full extents, I guess the strength of dealing with such a situation shows up when you least expect it, when it matters the most.
    It’s definitely something you remember for your whole life.

    • Gabriele

      There are parts of that day that I will never forget – almost as if it just happened a few minutes before. It sucked no other way to describe it. I taught me a lot about things. We accumulate things and those things mean so much to us. I do not have an attachment so much to things. Sure there are things that I cannot part but not many. I find it very easy to donate things, to throw them away, to sell them. I guess I know that in a minute they can be gone by no fault of my own so attaching to them is pointless. Cold? Maybe.

      I was young and did not understand the logistics of what my parents really did. Now as an adult I really do and see that part as something that has made me stronger. Sure I have a pity party day and then I immediately go into the fix it/make it better mode.

      • We all manage to get the good out of the worst situation, in this case your strength was built partially ’cause of this experience, I can see that.

  • Thanks for sharing that, Suzanne.

    I can’t believe that they didn’t let you out of school as soon as they knew.

    Glad you were all ok.


    • Hey there!

      I think it was because it was school policy that if you were to leave school grounds early, it had to be with a parent. Different situation but in the end it was prob better as the fire dept did not need us hanging around while they tried and work.

      Best part was that we were all ok and things can be replaced.