One night last week, around midnight, I was convinced a man-hunt was taking place in our neighborhood. Drifting in and out of sleep, I heard sirens, gunshots, and the hum of something - a helicopter? Just as I was about to nudge Joe and request that he investigate, the phone rang. It was our next door neighbor calling with the news that a house across the park was on fire.
Sure enough, we pulled back the curtains to see an orange glow and massive clouds of smoke blowing across the 12 acre park that is the hub of our neighborhood. Because we are outside of the city limits and without fire hydrants, water trucks were zipping up and down our street delivering water to a make-shift pool that the pumper trucks used to put out the fire. Five fire departments and the DNR somehow kept the flames from spreading to nearby homes as well as the park. A video we saw the next day showed that the house was a gigantic fireball by the time help arrived.
The home was a total loss, but fortunately the family got out safely. The smoke was so thick and the night so windy that we stayed inside, out of the firefighters' way, and prayed for the neighbors. We also prayed that our smoke alarms would not go off.
When disaster strikes so close to home I am haunted by the "what-if's". What if our house caught on fire? Would the kids remember what to do? If the stairway was blocked, could they find the fire safety ladders in the closet under the American Girl dolls? Would they know how to pop the screen and drop down the ladder? Who would get the little ones?
Then I think about every single thing we own going up in smoke and waking the next day with nothing. No contacts, no toothbrush, no clothes, no favorite coffee mug. No books! How would I ever replace all our books? Fortunately most things are just things and can be replaced, but what about the things that can't? Makes you want to put all your treasured photos and mementos in a big fire-safe box, or convert everything to digital to keep in a cloud.
Today I was reading about Alexander the Great, about how he requested that his hands dangle out of his coffin to remind people that he came into the world with nothing and left with nothing. Only the intangible passes with you: love, knowledge, wisdom, virtue, faith, honor.
The loss of this home leaves a hole the landscape of our neighborhood and a hole in our hearts, but the neighborhood is ready and waiting to pitch in and help out. Generosity will help fill the holes.