October 23rd, 2010 my life changed. It started out as a normal Saturday morning; I had friends sleep over and we were sat on my bed going through old yearbooks talking about boys and how much we hated our yearbook photos. Everything was as normal as it could get, that’s until I could smell and could slightly see the thick smoke forming in the living room. We all ran out, just assuming the pancakes my dad has made started to burn, but when we got into the living room the amount of smoke couldn’t just be from burnt pancakes. I don’t even remember it registering that my house caught on fire, I just remember screaming at my brother outside that his room was on fire. He ran right past me after understanding what had happened, right back into the fire.
I turned around in the driveway and could only stare at the big amount of smoke coming out of windows, and all I could think about was everything I owned and knew was in flames and was unsalvageable. It was my childhood home, the home I would dance around in the morning and the home I celebrated multiple Christmas mornings with my family. It was my bedroom I had sleepovers in, the bedroom I first watched High School Musical in. It was like watching your memories burn, my safe space was in flames and there was nothing I could do about it.
Eventually the fire department arrived and put out the fire but even if the flames were out that didn’t mean I could get back everything we lost. At that point all I had to my name was the sweatpants and shirt I was wearing. I was left in the dark regarding what was recoverable, until the firefighters started to bring out items they found. We all sat there by the road with endless amount of baby wipes trying to wipe off the smoke that covered my laptop and shoes. It wasn’t until the next day that we were allowed inside the house and I remember walking upstairs and seeing our couch burnt and our refrigerator melted. Walking into my newly painted and decorated bedroom and seeing everything covered in smoke is an image I’ll never get over. All I grabbed was my favorite dress and my Zac Efron poster. Clearly my priorities were in line.
We soon received an influx of support from neighbors, some I don’t think we’d ever even talked to or met. We got cards with gift cards and money and clothes in huge trash bags. The community support was insane and really showed you that people cared and wanted to help even if it was just a simple “we’re thinking of you.” It really makes a difference in your life.
“You never know what you have until it’s gone” is something we’ve all heard in different context, but when you lose most of your belongings you really come to understand that you’ve lived a privileged life and most things you owned are irrelevant. That would be my biggest takeaway from my house fire. The most important things in life aren’t the knick knacks on your shelves or the clothes in your closet. Instead it’s that your family are all together and happy and healthy, and for a 7th grader that’s a very hard concept to understand and even at 20 I have a hard time remembering this. Sometimes something negative has to happen for you to understand.
I’m still not allowed to leave a room with a candle lit and when we rebuilt our house we weren’t allowed to have a fireplace. Since it’s been eight years I’m able to joke around about it with my friends and I think it’s a good thing that I can take such a negative life changing event and make jokes regarding it; if you don’t then you’ll only look back and be sad.
Of course I still can’t believe my house caught on fire, but it’s definitely provided me with constant essay content, I won’t lie.