That morning

It started, as they say, as a normal day.  Rob was up very early and went out to go hunting.  I got up around 6 am, and sat down with my coffee and Hay Day app (what a fun time waster that is).  Our three daughters (ages 11, 9, and 9) were up around 6:20 and began their school day rituals – the elder one showered, the younger two lazed around wishing it was Saturday.

Just before 7, the girls started to get their breakfasts.  Typical morning – reheating homemade frozen waffles, getting juice, etc.  We noticed an odd smell.  An electrical smell.  I shut off the heat (it had been a very cold night, but I had turned on the heater a few times that week so it wasn’t that ‘dust on the coils’ smell), and went down to the basement to do a ‘sniff test.’  I didn’t smell anything unusual down there, so I went back upstairs.  I sniff tested the two upstairs bedrooms, and found nothing odd.  The girls were concerned about the smell, so I opened the top portion of the window near the kitchen table.  I kept going around the living room and kitchen area looking, and I remember motioning with my hands in the air saying, “it HAS to be right around here, but I can’t find it!”

I wish I had taken it more seriously right then and there.  I keep thinking that if I had, I could have saved more.  I could have gotten my cat out.  I could have done….better.

Right after I said that I couldn’t find it (the source of the smell), we saw smoke coming up from the corner heating vent in the living room.  The smoke alarms started going off, upstairs and downstairs.  I believe that was the point when my cat ran for the basement….his favorite hiding places were all downstairs.

I told the girls to grab a coat and get outside and get in my truck.  It was around 32 degrees that morning, I think.  One of them asked, “should we get our shoes on?”  Emily, 11, yelled, “NO!  We have to GO NOW!”  And out the kitchen door they went.

I went to the corner of the living room, and realized that smoke was now also coming up through the vent next to the door.  I ran out on the porch and saw that the girls were indeed in the truck, then ran back into the kitchen.  I saw flames coming up through the vent in the corner.  I said, “oh SHIT” and grabbed the fire extinguisher from beneath the kitchen sink.  Thank goodness the use of an extinguisher is simple and ingrained: pull the pin, extend the nozzle, squeeze the handle.  I aimed for that corner vent, thinking what a mess this was going to be to clean up.  I got the flames down, then saw flames coming up through the vent next to the door (both vents were located on either end of the couch in the living room).  I started using the extinguisher on that vent; then looked over toward the corner.  Flames had come back up and the living room curtains were on fire; it looked like the couch was starting to smoke.  I realized then that I could not possibly get this fire out with the extinguisher.

I grabbed the phone from next to the table, called the dog out with me and went out the kitchen door to the porch, to call 911.  The phone was dead.  I put the extinguisher down and ran back in, and got my cell phone from the kitchen counter and dialed 911.  I quickly told the operator my house was on fire, the address, and please hurry.  I know I kept saying that…please hurry.  Please hurry!

While on the phone, I went back inside and made it as far as the kitchen table.  The black smoke was awful, and was hanging in a thick cloud several feet down from the ceiling.  I turned around and got my purse off the hook by the door, and picked up a large envelope from the top basement step.  It was full of documents I had needed earlier in the week for an appointment, and that I meant to return to the bank safety deposit box: passports, vehicle titles, birth certificates, and so forth.  I remember being on the porch, kneeling in the kitchen doorway.  Watching the smoke and flames consume our home.  I wish I had the presence of mind to call my cat, to try to get him out.  But I couldn’t think.  It was so awful.

The 911 operator told me to get away from the house, and when I got to my truck and put the dog in with the kids she said that a first responder was on site.  There was a woman at the bottom of the driveway, and she told me to move the truck down on to the road and away from the house.  When I did that, we could see flames shooting out of the corner of the living room.  The girls were in hysterics, and I wasn’t any help to them at all.  All I knew then was that they were safe, my husband was presumably safe in the woods, and I had my dog with me.

I’m thinking that was probably around 7:10 am.

In retrospect….

I sent Rob a text after I moved the truck.  I didn’t call him because my thought process was that he was in the woods, and therefore he wouldn’t answer the phone.  But I should have called, so there would have been no question in his mind that the kids were ok, from the first minute.

It all happens so quickly.  Have a plan.  It isn’t pleasant to think about something like this happening, but if you talk about what to do ahead of time then you’ll be better prepared to react IF it does happen.  No….my going back in the house wasn’t a part of the plan; the plan was to get the kids safe.  After that I was winging it – and not very well.  It was a stupid move to go back in, but this was our home and I had to do SOMETHING.

Good Lord, I miss that cat.  He was my fat buddy, and I fervently hoped and prayed that he ran back upstairs and out the kitchen door, and was hiding someplace.  Over the next several days, we searched the barn, we called for him whenever the kids were not with us.  Rob and I both so badly wanted Spooker to have gotten out alive.  I am thankful that Rob continued to search the rubble until he found Spook.  It was such a heartbreak for us, but at least then we knew.

Our little house wasn’t perfect, but it was home.  It’ll be a long while before someplace feels like home to me again.

I have always loved our daughter’s school – the faculty and staff there are wonderful, and I knew that before.  However, that morning several people from the school came to check on us, give us hugs, and encourage us.  They genuinely care about our children and our family as a whole, and I appreciate them more than I know how to express.

So many others also came to see us – neighbors, friends, strangers.  All came with condolences, kind words, hugs, and offers of assistance.  The amount of support we have received from our community has been amazing.  Our kids have all recognized the kindness and caring of our community, and have expressed gratitude to be a part of it.  From 9 and 11 year olds, that’s pretty awesome.  God has shown us a lot of wonderful things during this experience!

While we have lost a much loved family pet and all our possessions – we have so much for which we are thankful.




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