Devil At The Door, Prayer On My Lips

Let me begin this post by saying, all are well and not one is hurt. Thanks be to God. I cannot speak for everyone’s nerves however…


Yesterday, I happened to be home. With my busy summer, I am rarely at home during the day, but yesterday I was. For that, I am thankful. I had been about to go out for a walk, had even been contemplating a swim. I delayed however, when I remembered that my father’s birthday is coming up, and I needed to sit down to write out a card. For that I stalled to go out, I am also thankful…


Just as I had sat down in my kitchen to write out a card, the fire alarm went off in my unit. It was intensely loud. Not your annoying little fire detector screech, but the mother of all fire alarms sounding out in warning. I had not been cooking, I wondered if one of my neighbors had burned something? I stood and hurried to my door. I didn’t see anything out in the hallway. I closed the door. However, I knew that I could not remain in my house…


When you hear an alarm like that, you do what you have been taught to do since you were a little kid. You get out of the house. Yet still, in the back of my mind, I wondered if it wasn’t false. I knew it was not a test, or else all residents would have been notified in advance…

So, I know I need to go outside, but I don’t want to leave my cat. Tiddo has to come with me. The noise was already terrifying him. I hurried to peer out of my door one more time. This time, the scene was different…


My next door neighbor was now at the end of the hall before one of our other neighbor’s doors. He yelled out that there was a fire inside. I now could see the smoke. I could also smell the smell, like burning wires. I knew right away that this was serious. I hurried out into the hall and immediately cried out whether anyone had called 911? Should I call 911? This may sound like a stupid question, but it was rather a I-sense-that-we-are-in-danger-and-there-is-little-time-to-waste-for-phone-calls-if-someone-has-already-dialed-911. In reply, I heard a voice say that one of our other neighbors was on the phone…I don’t know whose voice said this. Just at that moment, said neighbor rushed down the stairs from above with her phone to her ear. Meanwhile, my next door neighbor pounded on the doors of the imperiled unit, and then hurried out the fire escape…I didn’t see which way my neighbor on the phone went…


What went through my head? This moment is real. I must make haste. I must get Tiddo. I must get out of the house…


I ran inside my unit to the closet. Where is the cat carrier?! If I don’t find that carrier in one second, the cat is going out in my purse. I find the cat carrier, I snatch it out and run to Tiddo in the kitchen. The sirens are so loud. The cat is panicked. The cat will not go into the carrier. Struggle. Force the cat into the carrier, zip him safely in. Cat begins to yowl in terror…


Snatch up my purse, throw in my MacBook, throw in my passport case with all of my important identification, throw in my hard drive. Time to go. Please know, I do not advocate pausing in your house for any items when there is a fire. The seconds I spared to grab these items should set no example. What was going through my mind? My MacBook and hard drive contain all of my written works, both published and unpublished, hundreds of hours of work, and were easily within reach. After me and my cat, that hard drive meant the most to me of anything I own. I may now officially call myself a crazy writer…I’m also lightening fast on my feet…


I realized as I snatched these items from my writing desk that this might be the last time I ever saw any of my things, or even my new home. I immediately reconciled to this. What do things matter? Only people matter. Shaking from the fear of the devil of destruction that was just down the hall, Tiddo and I were soon flying down the stairs, another neighbor just behind, covering his ears…


Out on the grass on the lawn, the fire trucks were just arriving. Firemen began heading up to our beautiful building, a historic building, some saying aloud that they did not know just where the fire was. I shouted and pointed. Another fireman did not know, I shouted and pointed again. It was then that I began praying, the words silent but fast over my lips. God, oh God, let them hurry! The fire will spread! Let them hurry!


Though visibly concerned, all the neighbors convened on the lawn were calm, gathered together in twos or threes, watching attentively. The fire hoses went in, firemen went in, residents were sent to the opposite side of the street. Glass began shattering from windows, water began spraying out. Firemen were seen in windows, opening them, smoke pouring out of ones in or near to the troubled unit. When I saw a fireman in the windows of the unit just above mine, I was sorely afraid that the fire might be spreading. I also knew that if they had gone into that unit, they were in mine too. Oh God, oh God. Someone said the firemen were breaking through doors. Oh no, oh no! They might also be hosing down walls, to make sure the fire doesn’t spread? Oh, the damage! My hand flew up to my mouth more than once. Though chatting calmly with my neighbors, I felt terribly nervous inside. Tiddo chilled quietly at my feet in his carrier. I was so glad that he was outside, with me.


To truncate this tale, the initial unit will one day be right again, but was last night upsetting to behold when it was permitted to reenter the building. Yet another unit is greatly damaged by water, and at least one other was said to smell heavily of smoke. Doors were indeed forced in for safety measures, water soaked the halls and there is damage to walls and paneling. I am so sorry for this. I am so sorry for my neighbors, and for the damage to this historic building. Praise the Lord, no one was hurt and all will be mended, it will just take time…


No one was in the unit that caught fire. It was having some work done and it seems an extension cord might have been the culprit, though I can not attest to the facts. When standing within view of that apartment last night, the smoke stinging my throat as an officer took account of what had been witnessed in the hall that afternoon, I felt a terrible surge of anxiety, fully understanding what could have been. As my door was being temporarily repaired, as Tiddo safely yowled from the bathroom, as I swept up shards of wood and paint from my floors, I knew that I would write this post today. And this is what I want to say to everyone who reads it…

Please take fire prevention seriously and keep an eye out for potential hazards in your home. Know the risks of using extension cords. Please go check the batteries in your fire alarms and your carbon monoxide detectors…today, right now. Make sure to have an emergency exit plan from your home, and talk about it with your family. Further, home owners insurance is always a wise idea. Love thy neighbor, and never forget the power of prayer.


Stay safe friends! And as always, stay strong, stay inspired.

A special thank you today to the Evanston Fire Department. Thank you for putting out the fire, and saving our homes.


22 thoughts on “Devil At The Door, Prayer On My Lips

  1. Oh Michelle I’m so sorry you had to go through such terror in your lovely condo – and so glad that nothing happened that cannot be repaired. As you say, PEOPLE are what matters. People and Tiddo, who is people anyway. Peace to you and all of your neighbors – I’m glad you’re all safe and well!!!!! Sending Hugs! Sara PS Remember when we talked about you getting one of those escape ladders? Here’s a link to one on Amazon. It’s $50 and has actual treads you can climb down.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Sara! I actually thought of you yesterday and that conversation! I have bookmarked the link, and I am getting that ladder. Life is so crazy, but I’m just so thankful that everyone is ok and that the fire was put out before it spread any further! Best, best wishes!


  2. So glad everyone is okay. Years ago I wondered what I would grab if ever faced with the same situation you were. Then it came, in the middle of the night, that horrible piercing scream of the fire alarm. My hand grabbed my glasses and shoved them on my face while I forced my feet into slippers. I grabbed the two frightened cats and managed to get them in the carrier and down the stairs we flew. I joined my neighbors with their cats and dogs on the street. Firetrucks were already there. We huddled out of the way. Luckily for us it ended up being a false alarm. Although that was at least 20 years ago, I will never forget it. I do know that the cats are my priority and I was very glad that I don’t sleep in the nude. So very, very glad you are all okay. Praying that your nerves return to normal soon.

    The other Michelle in Seattle..

    PS I didn’t have a computer then. I would now grab that too if time allows.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! And oh my goodness! So glad to hear it was a false alarm! Yes, my nerves are a bit sensitive now. I’ve heard two fire trucks with their sirens today, and it made me immediately nervous! I’m understanding that you can’t control life however, you just have to be as best prepared as you can be for what comes your way. Best wishes friend! Tiddo says ‘meow’ to Diavolo.


  3. Glad you’re okay! I’ve been in the same situation so I sympathise. As you said, the important thing is that everyone was okay. And I’m glad you were able to get the cat too 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I’m sorry to hear that you had an experience as well. I have learned over the last years that fires are not so uncommon. That’s why I wanted to share…a reminder about fire safety. I was already a little paranoid about fire risks before. I’m likely to be more so now!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Dear Michele,

    How I know the feelings. Currently I sit in tinder dry California, 25 miles from the CARR Fire, which since Monday July 30 has burned 131,896 acres (supposedly the size of Delaware) and is only 39% contained. The conflagration has caused 6 deaths and evacuated 38,000 residents from their homes. Some will have nothing left standing when allowed to return to their home sights. Currently there are 4,345 fire personnel on sight with 380 engines. 1,070 residences destroyed and 21 commercial structures; in addition 188 residences and 23 commercial structures are damaged. The lives of so many displaced and the community at large will suffer from this for several years with clean-up and rebuilding. The amazing firefighters are coming from 17 States, Australia, and America Samoa to assist. The Pall of Smoke requires many to wear protective masks. Many wildlife are on the run, or consumed. I’m sure you’ve heard of this, but I do not wish to make light of your situation. Fire is Fire and will cause alarming results if not heeded and respected. Besides this fire there are several others almost as large burning throughout California.

    Twenty five miles from the epicenter may seem a distance, but that distance in this dry tinder box can be consumed with in days. It is not just the distance that worries me, it’s more local. Two days ago there was a car fire 3 miles from me that burned vegetation, but was quickly extinguished. Then yesterday morning when I heard helicopters flying low overhead, I tuned into our local FB community Fire Council page, to discover there was a house fire 9 miles East of me; it was started by a squirrel short circuiting a transformer. Again the quick response contained the situation to a double wide trailer and 1/2 acre within two hours. However, taking the heed, I packed half my truck with essentials and have staged in the house all the “precious” items that I wish to save. It is daunting to decide which goes and which stays. I am fortunate to have the time to decide. I empathize with the situation you were in to decide what was the most precious to save in the short time.

    Your intuition helped you and Tiddo.

    When I was five and my brother three, we were awakened in the night by our Mother and a fireman who wrapped us in blankets and rushed us out of our two family flat in Brooklyn, NY. The imprint of the situation and the acrid smoke that lingered for weeks after clean-up and rebuild is forever etched in my Mind.

    The changing climate whether believed or not, is the cause for the very dry conditions. Which will intensify and linger until it changes back to what it was. Conditions like “firnadoes” are an ever increasing phenomenon which intensified the conflagration.

    Yet, out of all this, the outpouring of Human Kindness is overwhelming.

    I’m glad your situation was not so horrific. Be vigilant, especially at Bristol, which I would imagine is all wooden buildings. This CARR Fire was caused by a blown tire on a camper trailer traveling the highway. The flat caused the exposed rim to spark on the pavement as the driver was pulling off the road. Within minutes fire was raging up the steep mountain terrain.

    All the photos are from the past week and half. And a link to the official fire map. Once you get to the site, click on the Tab above marked CARR. Or any other fire noted.

    Question is. Was it Mrs O’leary’s cow, or the men smoking in the barn playing cards that made the lantern to fall over that caused the Great Chicago Fire?

    Be safe and hug Tiddo,

    Robert Levrini aka Gia

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for this, and how much I ever appreciate your messages! Reading this, I am utterly humbled, and my prayers are with each and every one affected. I’m thinking of you, friend! I am thinking of all of you! Be safe!


  5. I am grateful that you and everyone are safe and okay. My house actually caught fire a decade ago and although my laptop was damage and I had to get all new identifications, my thoughts at that time were to get my mom in the second floor and my dogs out of the house at the time.

    Luckily for us my brother wasn’t home, who’s bedroom was in the basement. Yes, we lost everything but the clothes on our backs but with good friends we had a place to stay, discounts on clothes, and few family pictures that we were able to replace thanks to family that had replicas.

    We all panic differently, for me I think it was more important that those I love were out as the fire was spreading quickly. And it was the fact that I would rather lose those items that can be replaced rather those I love and could not.

    Sorry for the long post. Your story just brought back those memories. I’m just grateful that for the last 2-3 years I can finally talk about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Rose, thank you so much for sharing this. It must have been very traumatic to have your mama, and more than one beloved pet, in your home when this happened. I cannot even imagine how afraid you must have felt, or the panicked focus you must have experienced to gather them up and out. I’m so thankful that you all made it out safe, and had such caring people around you after you lost so much.

      In sharing the fire that started in my building, I hoped it would be a reminder to be diligent about fire safety in the home, and a reminder to talk about exit plans with one’s family. Reading your story makes the message I wanted to send, even stronger and more personal. Thank you for that! Blessings and best wishes to you and yours!


  6. What a story! Terrifying. Thank goodness no victims, but well described. A great page turner for those just reading about it. Exactly what damage was done to your apartment? Is it liveable?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank goodness you and your neighbors, and Tiddo, are all okay.

    Funny, well maybe not funny, but almost exactly 18 years ago, I lived in a beautiful condo unit on Hinman Avenue in Evanston and our across-the-hall neighbor’s unit had a fire start in her living room at about 2 a.m. We both had cats, too (Shadow and Sammi). Everyone and both cats ended up okay (although there is a story there…); our neighbor lost almost everything that was in the condo. It was devastating for all of the more than two dozen residents of the building and especially for those of us who had smoke, water and/or fire damage, but we all reminded ourselves that it could have been so much worse. Especially because it was the middle of the night and the only thing that saved us from more tragedy was that our neighbor’s cat, Shadow, woke her up. She already had smoke stains on her face when she ran across to our door and banged for us to call 911. (She couldn’t get to her phone, and this was before cell phones.) Our smoke alarms didn’t go off until the first fire truck arrived. Among other things, we all learned to be better prepared for disaster. Anyway, thank you for sharing your story. It reminds me that it’s never too much effort to think about what needs to be done to prepare, or at least as much as one can prepare. I am going to do a check-up on my current home. Thank you so much!

    Oh, and the Evanston firefighters were our heroes that night, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your story! I am so glad that you were all ok! It makes me even more thankful that the fire we experienced was during the day, and not while everyone was asleep, though the sirens would have stirred the whole neighborhood I think. I must say, your story compliments my belief that everyone should own a cat! Shadow was a hero!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. FINALLY getting around to reading this. (Better late than never!) That must have been so scary and I am glad you are okay. I am in awe that you managed to think so quickly to gather the things that were most important to you. I also found your fire safety/preparation tips quite helpful. But you forgot one thing: make sure you back up all of your digital files to the cloud! I never save anything on my actual computer anymore–all of it just gets saved to my Dropbox account. So I will be able to access those files no matter what happens to my computer.

    Liked by 1 person

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