A little over a week and a half ago, my parents were watching a movie in their living room, enjoying the last fire of the season when they thought they smelled smoke. Within seconds the smoke detectors upstairs went off and when my father went to investigate he found the second floor filled with smoke. They quickly called 911, grabbed one of our dogs, Fred, a few important belongings and tried desperately to find Fred's sister (and BFF), Lili. For the next two and a half hours they sat on the neighbor's porch watching the house they had lived in for 23 years burn to the ground. When my mom called and told me, I didn't believe her. I didn't want to believe her. How could this be happening? This happens to other people, to people you don't know, not to your own family.
Sev and I quickly booked a flight home to be with my family and try to help in any way we could. After walking around the property, surveying the damage, we went right to work trying to salvage what was left of our home. At first it looked like everything was ruined. Although the the fire was only active in the attic and second floor, that floor eventually fell onto the main floor and smoke, heat and water (from the hoses and broken pipes) ruined just about everything on the main floor and the basement. What wasn't ruined we tried our best to restore to its pre-fire condition. Dishes were scrubbed clean, scrapbooks dried out, artwork removed from broken frames. One blessing is that all of our photo albums, although completely waterlogged, were intact.
Visible remnants of my childhood were strewn about the house and backyard. I saw baby clothes, my old bed, even a pink sequined ballet recital costume. Enough to remind me that this is the place I grew up.
Investigators believe a wooden header which supports the inside of the chimney dried out over years and years of being exposed to heat and the combustible temperature was lowered enough that the wood caught fire. The scary part about this ordeal is that the fire investigator said it was going to happen. It was just a matter of time. Since it was bound to happen, I guess I'm glad it happened when it did-- while my parents were there and awake and healthy, without a houseful of guests or when my brothers and I were young.
While there is still a lot of work to be done and much more planning and stress, mostly on my parent's behalf, we have already started the rebuilding process. The support from our family, friends, neighbors and total strangers in the community has been incredible. I am absolutely humbled by everyone's thoughts, prayers and generosity, and I honestly don't know how we would survive without it.
A lot of my blog talks about the latest and greatest THINGS. What to buy, what to wear, even what to eat, but this tragedy was a reminder of what's really important. Things can be replaced. Memories and family are forever. I think my brother described it best when the newspaper interviewed us by saying, "Home is wherever your family is. A fire can't ever burn that down." Later that afternoon, I found this dish towel I gave my mom for her birthday a few years ago: "Home is Where Your Mom Is."