Completely incoherent ramblings about shoes, food and being in love.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Surreal Life

Have you ever had one of those nightmares where your worst fear was coming true? The kind where you wake up and your sheets are in disarray and your pillow is laying on the floor next to you? But you woke up though right? The past few days have been that way for me, except I am beginning to realize now that it's not a dream, it's my life. I am not going to wake up from this one, but I need to wake up to realize that this is life. My life. My dream turned nightmare.

As I type this I sit at my parents computer. In the bedroom that I grew up in, now their home office. This is the house that I left 4 years ago to begin my new life with the man of my dreams. I never thought I would be back in this house for more then Christmas Dinner and the occasional drop-by to say hello. But today, as I sit here, I am so thankful that I can call it home again.

On Tuesday January 17, 2006 my home burned down. I was at work when I heard the news. Colin called me and half frantically, half casually said, "Have you talked to Lynn yet, (our neighbor and one of my Bridesmaids) she just called me, our house might be on fire." In our lives we are slightly prone to misinformation. Certain things get obsessed over and then never happen, or weren't true to begin with. This, I assumed, was just one of those times. Calmly I said, "Okay dear, I will be on my way home in a minute, just let me finish some things around here." We had a huge project to finish at work this week, and I really didn't have the time to go home just to find that the fire was no where near my place. I went over and told my carpool that we needed to leave and went to find my boss to let him know. At this point I had already tried to get out of work with a thousand different excuses; my dog is sick (I don't have a dog), my car won't start, I think I've got the flu. All of these were jokes of course and my boss knew that. So when I walked up to him and said, "I have to go my house might be on fire" he just kind of looked at me and chuckled...Then he realized I wasn't joking and told me to get the hell out of there immediately. I think it was at that moment that I realized it could be true. The look of horror in his face made me understand.

Five minutes later I am in my car and about a third of the way through my drive home. My phone rings and it's Colin. He just got to the entrance of the neighborhood and they wouldn't let him drive in. So he was running down the street though the myriad of emergency vehicles and past Caution tape. Finally he made it to our street. At first he said, oh don't worry, it's not ours, it's the building next to us. The he got a little closer and I heard him gasp and start screaming "Our Cats! Get our Cats! He screamed into the phone something about flames shooting from our house like he has never seen before. The panic in his voice made me quiver like a dog during a thunderstorm. I hung up the phone and stepped on the gas pedal. By the time I got there crowds had gathered. The firefighters had stopped the fire from spreading any further. What seemed like hours later, Lynn screamed, "Jess! The cats!!" and ran towards one of the firemen. Sure enough they had found her baby and she embraced him with all the love of a mother. Tears started streaming down her face and about a dozen news crews snapped pictures like she was god-damned Britney Spears and it was the first glimpse of Sean Preston. There she was in this moment of human tragedy, racked with emotion and all they could do was think about their cover story.

A few minutes later I looked up and saw the scene from of every BackDraft type movie. The big burly fireman walking out of the smoldering building with the soaking wet kitty in his arms. I ran over and grabbed him from his arms, Baby. My child, he was safe. I ran him to the EMT and they gave him oxygen. Colin followed about 30 seconds behind me with Monkey. Reporters were shoving their microphones in my face right and left and it's a blur from there. I don't really remember anything beyond that point. Once my children were safe in our arms my brain just kind of shut off.

The red cross was there. They gave us vouchers for food and clothing from K-Mart. We went that night and got the basics to get us through the next couple of days. As we were loading it in our car we realized that everything we own fit into the back seat of our car. It was a sobering moment.

I won't continue to give the full account of my week. It only gets worse. And then a little better, and then much worse. We didn't have insurance. What we lost in the fire is gone, we will never get it back, not even replacements. We were able to save some things, like clothes and pots and pans. Everything smells terrible. At first it was like a campfire smell. I love camping so I think the smell triggered good memories for me. But since we lived on the bottom floor everything was soaking wet from all of the water they dumped on the fire to make it stop destroying our homes. So now, a couple of days later our few belonging smell dank and disgusting. When we went in to salvage what we could, it was like it was raining from our ceiling. The water was pouring down every wall and at every seam. Paint on the ceiling was forming huge blisters of water behind it. They would stretch the paint until it couldn't take and more and then explode like a water balloon. The smell in the building was choking. We couldn't drink enough water. When I close my eyes at night it's all that I can smell.

We have waited to hear what caused the fire. And we have been waiting to find out what will happen with our mortgage. We finally found that out this morning. We were hoping the the condo association's insurance policy would buy us out and we could put it all behind us. Turns out that's not the case. They will rebuild them, which means we still have a mortgage and condo fee to pay. Which means that we can't afford rent anywhere else. Which makes us technically homeless. Have you every been homeless? It is a heart-wrenching feeling. Sure, we can stay with my parents as long as we need to, but that is looking longer and longer. And with two cats it's kind of tough to contain them in one room. But they can't roam, my parents have a cat. A cat with claws who is very territorial. My cats would not bode well in that fight.

Throughout this whole ordeal I have been floored repeatedly by the kindness of friends and strangers. My parent's church gave us money to help us out. My work is taking up a donation right now. People are offering to do whatever they can. It has genuinely restored my faith in the American people. Often times we get so caught up in our lives that we forget there are other people around us too. Good people. People that need our help. I wish that I could give every single one of them a hug. And thank them. And to everyone who sent emails with their prayers and condolences, thank you. You have no idea how much it means to us. This too shall pass. And we will come out the other side a little stronger and a little wiser because of it. But for now we will forge ahead and try to remember what it was like to live with Mom and Dad. And I? Will go bake thousands of brownies to bring to the 10 different fire companies that responded to the fire and saved my cats for me. I have never met such courageous and heroic people.

I am sorry if this doesn't read well. I cannot proof read it because I will just start sobbing if I actually have to re-read and think about it.

This used to be our home.


Blogger AnnaBana said...

I am so sorry, what an absolute nightmare. I will keep you in my prayers. I hope everything will be rebuilt soon and that you can have your life back to normal asap. How wonderful that your kitties made it, and that no one was injured.

4:58 PM

Blogger janet said...

I still can't believe everything that happened, but at least you have your husband and your kitties. If there is anything I can do (aside from come to DE and buy you some new, cute pointy-toed shoes or something) please let me know.

9:45 PM

Blogger Artist Formerly Known as Ella said...

I'm so sorry. I will keep you in my prayers. Stay stong.

11:08 AM

Anonymous bonkrood said...

On January 19, 1990 (when I was in 5th grade) our house burned down. It's hard to believe it has been 16 years since that happened--but it's also strange to think that it ever even happened at all.

We were uninsured, and my parents were young with 4 small kids. Somehow we made it through and I'm sure you will too. You're in my thoughts.

(P.S. I found you via Janet, by way of Amalah...)

11:47 PM

Blogger Isabel said...

My first thought is that I am so thankful you weren't hurt and that you got your cats out safely. That would have just added to the nightmare.

My second thought is of you guys and the road ahead. Good luck and be strong!

2:46 PM

Anonymous for Joke! said...

Wow. Just, wow.

Hugs from Amsterdam...

11:24 AM

Blogger Dani said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:15 AM

Blogger Dani said...

Jess...My God! I had no idea!!!! If there is anything at all that I can do please don't hesitate to ask. I know we haven't been as close due to circumstances but you know that I love you very much and I still see you as a little sister.
So please lean on me if you need to. Even if its just to get out and talk to someone about all of this. Whatever you need I will be there for you!

Love ya sweetie!

11:33 AM

Blogger liberalbanana said...

Wow, so you have to live with your parents until they rebuild the condo? And you have to keep paying your mortgage in the meanwhile? WOW. That is so awful. Really really sobering to remind all of us that if you don't have condo insurance already, go the heck out and get it NOW. Thank you for sharing your story - I hope others can learn. And again, I'm so glad that your whole family made it out safely. Keep us updated...

4:57 PM


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