Well 2013 began totally unexpectedly. This morning around 9am, the hubs and I were in bed discussing whether or not our house guests, who got in after 4am would still want to go to brunch at 10am given their late return. The hubs decided to go check with them. He opened the door, stopped, turned to me and said, “Hold on, I think there might be a fire.”
Above us we heard stamping and alarms, the hubs came back in the room and said, “There’s smoke.” Someone banged loudly on our door. Our whole apartment sprang to action; shoes, coats, phones. In my scramble to put something on my feet, I looked towards the kitchen and saw light grey smoke curling in the air. Our house guests, the hubs (who had leashed Elphie) and I headed out the door. Our neighbor’s door was wide open, her apartment full of smoke. We all ran (as best we could) down the two flights of stairs, encountering more neighbors, trying to cover our mouths from all the smoke. A fireman passed us going up, “Where’s the furnace?” I don’t know if anyone answered him. We all have individual furnaces in our units.
By the time we got outside, there were five fire trucks and one ambulance in front of our building. A ladder was already extended from one truck to the top of our building. We figured later that was in case the fire was on a lower level and they needed to save people from the top floors. Outside, neighbors gravitated toward each other on the sidewalks. Everyone was worried and coughing. We told the story of what happened from our various perspectives. I learned that the couple right below us have two cats and a dog, though only one cat was willing to get in to the carrier and be removed from the apartment. I saw another couple with a very small baby who I had no idea lived in our building. When it got too cold, we all migrated in the neighboring convenience store to wait.
When I got tired of standing, the hubs, Elphie, our house guests and I walked to the house guests’ car. We sat and talked it over some more, cancelled our brunch reservations and wondered what was happening in our building. The hubs decided to go check. We had been out of our apartment for maybe half an hour to forty-five minutes at this point, but he called me moments later saying come back.
We had been given the all clear. One of the furnaces in a lower unit had caught fire but luckily, it did not spread. We did not see the owners nor the interior of their unit but our next door neighbor, whose unit is directly above theirs, had a floor covered in soot. The only damage to our home was the door. Out of instinct, the hubs locked it on his way out, so the firemen had to break the lock to get in and check our furnace and the rest of the house. Luckily, they only broke the top lock so we can still use the bottom lock while we wait to get the whole door replaced.
Getting out of the building through all the smoke was the scariest part. I was going down first and lost sight of the hubs and Elphie at one point, but there was a line of people trying to get down so I had to just keep going. Then, outside, so many people just kept coughing, myself included, but the paramedics on site assured us that was normal. When we were waiting in the car, I thought about our home and our stuff and our downstairs neighbors’ cat and what if it was all gone when we went back. I wondered who we would call, where would we go, and what we would do.
But then I reminded myself, and this was not a revelation, that we have amazing families, generous friends and each other (and Elphie). If we started 2013 with nothing, we would be ok. More than ok, fine, good, secure, and loved. Our home is ok, and we are good, secure and loved. Grateful is a good way to start the year.