Newness for a New Year

Friday, October 12, 2007

Fire and Smoke (with pictures)

There is a man who walks up and down University Avenue in Provo/Orem. He carries all his belongings on his back and also has garbage bags in his hands. I can't count the number of times I have passed him. As I passed him yesterday, I felt a small bit of empathy for him as I felt the presence of my own plastic bags in my car. I now carry my life in plastic bags, both large black garbage bags and a few smaller white grocery sacks. In some ways I was prepped for this by serving in Bulgaria--where they always carry their belongings in plastic bags.

Anyway, my car has become one of the homes I now have that takes me between my other homes:

1. My parents' home in Centerville, where all my clothes are.

2. Thomas and Erin's home in Orem. I have most of stinky food there.

3. Brother and Sister Killpack's basement in Springville, which is where we sleep.

4. My office at school, where I keep a lot of other things.

I just got the pictures of the fire developed and I decided it was about time to blog about this whole ordeal. Many of you have heard this before, but now you can relive the saga with text and pictures.

6:55 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4

My roommate has been doing laundry, but leaves to go to a play. I need to go get some papers from my office so I can grade for the rest of the evening. I hear the dryer going, but figure it is almost through its cycle since my roommate had started it a while before. My mom always told me not to leave the dryer going, but I figure I will be right back and it is already done--besides it isn't my load.

7-7:45 ish p.m.

I am in my office gathering papers and catching up with some family members on the phone.

7:50 p.m.

I am talking on the phone with Thomas when I pull up to my house. I see smoke coming from the back, and I hope the neighbors are BBQing again. When I pull in the back, I see the smoke coming from the back windows. I tell Thomas I think my house in on fire. He quickly prompts me to get off the phone with him and call 911. I get out of the car and some of the neighbors come to help. They had just seen the smoke and came to call 911. So, I call 911 with extremely shaky hands. You hope to go your entire life without ever really thinking you would find yourself in this type of situation, and you never think you will have to call 911. Well, it wouldn't connect right away and there was some message on my phone about this being an emergency number. I couldn't really make sense of it, and all I could think was, "Yeah, I am having an emergency!!" After my third try it finally went through. The woman on the other line was extremely calm, which was good because I felt anything but calm. I explained what I saw. (FYI: my calls to 911 didn't stay in my call history. I see what they didn't, but I didn't know they wouldn't.) The neighbor had felt the back door, which wasn't hot, and said we should open it. I was nervous to do so and my hand was shaking so bad I could hardly get the key in the lock. But, I did and smoke poured out. I saw no flames, but I could hear water from the laundry room. I knew it had to be the dryer because that was the only thing going when I left. I explained what I saw to the 911 dispatch, but within 5 minutes I heard sirens. I went to greet the firefighters, but felt so alone. My roommates were both gone, and I stood there without knowing what to do or what was really happening.

The fire chief talked to me, and I explained the layout of the house so they knew what to expect. He kindly directed me to the fire engine, where I escaped the gathering crowds. I didn't want to talk to anyone. I called Thomas back and he said he was on his way. I called Mark and left him a somewhat frantic message to call me back and that I was sitting in a fire engine cab. I also called my landlord, which is not an easy call to make, by the way. "Hi, this is Breanne and the house is on fire."
I waited to get out until Thomas got there. I am glad he works in PR because that is exactly what he did for the rest of the evening. He talked to all the people who wanted to know what had happened--as if the fire trucks weren't a good indicator.

We left messages with my roommates, but they didn't arrive until later. To be honest, I could only think of my laptop sitting on the kitchen counter. I have been investigating external hard drives to back up the info, but I hadn't made a purchase yet. I kept on telling myself that at least no person was injured, for which I am so grateful. I began to think about what I would miss the most. What would make my soul hurt to lose to blackness? I wasn't sure. The firefighters were very nice through the whole experience. They updated us as information became available. I discovered that the laundry room was burned and there was a lot of heat damage in the kitchen, but the rest of the house had only smoke damage. I asked exactly what that meant, and the response was that there was soot and smell on everything. I felt a heavy relief.

The firefighters talked us through what they knew, told us what to do as we started to clean up, and asked what we needed from the house for the night. We weren't getting in there till the next day. I asked for my laptop and cell phone charger. My phone was almost dead and I knew I would need to call people.

9 p.m. (maybe)

We stayed with Thomas and Erin that night and for the next few. We walked away with what ever we had on and that was it. They taped off the yard with yellow Fire Department Tape, which really made it look like a crime scene. They said to wait for a call the next day.

9:30 p.m.

I emailed my classes and the English Department to cancel class for the next day. I didn't think showing up in my yoga pants and chacos would go over well, besides I didn't feel much like teaching anything the next day--besides needing to wait for the Fire Warden to call.

11:00 p.m.

When my face broke a few years ago, I realized that so much can change over the course of 24 hours, but now I see how much can change in 1 hour or merely an instant. As I tried to take in what had just happened to me, I couldn't help but think of the people and things that mean so much to me. What happens if we never tell people how we care? We always believe there will be another minute, another opportunity to share what brings us joy, but sometimes all we have is the now.

I tried to go to sleep, but all the trying didn't help much. I can usually sleep and sleep well, but not this night. I replayed the entire evening over and over again. I also started to realize how much this would effect my life. How do you begin to describe the feelings of loss and wonder at such a time. One firefighter told us not to wonder "if." What if I had been home? What if it had happened at night? If not tonight, then when would it have happened? What if ...

Here are some pictures of what we found the next day.

The dryer.

The laundry room.

The kitchen.

Stay tuned for more pictures and explanations.

No comments: