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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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!

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.