For all the bad, we were lucky. That’s the beginning and end of everything I can tell you and all of what’s important, but damn if the ’could have beens’ aren’t haunting.
My phone rang at 1:29 am, my mother crying frantically on the other end, pleading for help, something about “the is house on fire” and then disconnecting before she could tell me if everyone had gotten out. We ripped startled kids out of their beds, yelled for them to put on shoes and stuffed them into the car and strapped them into seat belts so I could race across town, still not knowing. My sister called screaming as I drove, and I tried desperately to take her off speaker phone, the bluetooth automatically broadcasting her panic to wide-eyed boys who were as scared and uncertain as I was, if not more. “Is everyone out?” I pleaded and she just cried and yelled gasping for breaths “I don’t know – it’s bad, Megan. IT’S BAD. HURRY.”
We couldn’t get anywhere near the house, smoke still billowing as we drove past. I don’t remember parking my car, just ripping kids out of it and running down the street with them, strangers offering to take them from me. A familiar face finally grabbed them from me and I kept going, finding my family – all of whom were out and OK, thank god – and there I stood, weak kneed and bent over, dry heaving among fire hoses and foam, firefighters, police and neighbors, sick with relief and terrified at the blinding lights and disaster.
But everyone was OK.
And then I took in the other scene also unraveling at the same time. In the middle of all this bad was something very good. Every single neighbor was out, at 1:40 am, working together to make sure everyone had what they needed.
The neighbor who noticed the smoke and woke up the sleeping families.
The neighbor who took a garden hose to the flames until the fire department arrived.
The neighbor who served coffee.
The neighbor who took in displaced families.
The neighbor who took in pets.
The neighbor who took in my kids for hours.
The neighbor who clothed people who didn’t have shirts on their backs when they evacuated.
And of course the firefighters who not only did what they do (and well) but went above and beyond as well as the Sheriffs Department and the bomb squad who had been up two days straight at that point. And so many others.
As I said, we were so lucky. And we are so grateful.