2008 had been an awkward year. I started a new position on January 2 and had an up-and-down year, but enjoyed some moderate success. In May, my beautiful, young (39 years old) wife had a freak heart attack that could have sent us reeling but turned out to be little more than an inconvenience. Then in October, after driving 12 hours to make it home from a business trip, I slipped into a Nyquil induced sleep only to have Tammy wake me up at about 1:15 am saying that she thought the house was on fire.
Groggy and irritated, I made my way to the door between our family room and garage, following some unsually loud popping sounds. When I opened the door all mental cloudiness went away. The garage was full of smoke and immediately to my left the room was glowing orange. Slamming the door I ran back toward our room, told Tammy to call 911 and get the kids, while I ran to put clothes on. Why clothes, you ask? Because in my adrenaline soaked mind, I thought that I could go put it out.
In two seconds I had pulled jeans and shoes on to combat the threat. When I opened the door this time, flames jumped past me a few feet and I immediately shed any manly thoughts of extinguishing the blaze. Running toward the kid’s rooms, Tammy was grabbing our daughter and I pulled our son out of his bunkbed to get out of the house. Our neighbor, Bob, was already coming to the front door with 911 on the line and helped us get clear.
For the first few minutes outside, my mind was still holding to the thought that the fire department could contain the fire to the garage and we’d be back in before too long. Once the firetrucks began to arrive and situation unfolded it became apparent that this would not be easy. The fire had gotten into the attic and spread throughout the entire house before the first drop of water hit it. As we have since learned from the investigation, the fire was likely in the attic when we discovered it. More on that later.
So there I was, standing in my neighbor’s yard, watching everything we owned burn, pretty dramatically too.
Firefighters running in and out, one section falling, then another. Knowing that my family was safe inside our neighbor’s house made the experience less shocking and more contemplative. For month’s afterward people would explain my calm demeanor and matter-of-fact attitude regarding the house by saying that I must still be in shock. Are you kidding? When you stand in a pair of soaking wet shoes at 2:00 in the morning, watching firefighters try in vain to save your stuff, the shock goes away. At least it did for us.