01 – Everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked.
It’ll never happen to me.
A pretty common thought when hearing about life-altering tragedies. Everyone experiences injuries or death to some degree, but not everyone has their house burn down. …Yet fire is something we’re prepared for from the time we are children. Stop drop and roll, stay close to the floor, test doors/doorknobs for heat before opening. None of that was really relevant as I told my friends that I was playing games with online “BRB,” standing to investigate the strange smell that had started to pique my interest. I froze as I turned and watched black smoke pouring out of the vents near the ceiling. I stumbled to my brother’s room and beckoned him, only able to point at the anomaly in my dumb confusion.
Springing to action, Ean rushed down the stairs to check on the first floor. “Fire!” he yelled as he ran back up. He gathered up the dogs, scooped our orange tabby, Potato, under his arm and hurried back down to the safety of outside. That’s when the only real useful thing I had been taught about this kind of situation echoed in my mind: get out all the living beings, things can be replaced. I chased our skittish cat, Sprite, around the apartment for what felt like eternity before I finally caught her, somehow without earning any terrified bites in the process. Luckily, I always kept a cat carrier out in plain sight so the cats wouldn’t hide when it came out for travel. Unluckily, I had taken the door off and had no idea where it was. I tipped the carrier upward, haphazardly threw a blanket over the door and ran outside with my terrified cat, coughing from the smoke I’d inhaled in the meantime.
By that time sirens pierced the night air and it wasn’t long before we were bathed in the red and blue pulse of emergency vehicle lights. I sat on the cold sidewalk, trying to comfort my worried dogs and clutching the blanket around the pet carrier that now held both of my cats. From where I was sitting, I couldn’t see the fire, but I could see the house on the opposite side turn bright orange from the blaze roaring beside it.
That three hours was a blur of people asking if we were alright, repeating what had happened from our perspective, and firefighters rushing to and from the house — first extinguishing the fire and then investigating for hot spots.
It was about 10:30 PM when I’d had enough waiting outside in the cold. My friend Lindsay graciously agreed to us coming to stay with her for the night, and with the cards of all the people I’d have to contact in the morning in my pocket, we left the ruins of our old home behind.
To be continued…