Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Naked in Flip Flops

This photo was taken two days before the fire.
It began as a lazy Sunday morning as Shane and I snuggled in bed and planned what would be our last Maple syruping (yes that’s a word because I say so) day. I had wanted to sleep in after a late night the night before but fate didn’t have it in the cards. When I finally relinquished my hold on Shane and let him get out of bed, I stayed in bed, staring at the ceiling, and ruminating about what I would wear.

 I became vaguely aware of the sound of Shane going up, or was it down, the basement stairs rather loudly. It occurred to me that I was smelling smoke. It’s odd to smell smoke all the way up in our bedroom. We did have a fire going the night before and the wood stove had to be out by now. Just as this occurred to me, I heard the very loud and very fast pounding of Shane’s feet, distinctly upwards. Within seconds, he reappeared in the bedroom breathlessly telling me to get up, get dressed, and get everyone out of the house because we have a fire.

Instantly I found myself standing stock-still, in the middle of my bedroom, naked wearing flip flops. In my haste I missed some important steps and quickly righted them before leaving my room. I paused at the landing trying to think of who slept where and remembering that my kids were not in the house. In confusion I yelled, “Who slept where!?” to which Bruce hollered, “Abby!” which told me that I needed to open Brennan’s door to wake her. Apparently the shrill of my scream woke her as she had her hand on the doorknob when I opened.

We FLEW down the stairs and exited the house. I am not sure what actually happened in the proper sequence, but there are certain things I know I did. I know I fretted and worried about Shane being down in the basement, of course trying to put the fire out.  I know that I ran back upstairs to retrieve my jewelry box. I know I contemplated throwing a couple of antiques out the window. I know I looked at Bruce’s suitcase oddly half way in and halfway out of the door as I stepped over it. I know I went in to retrieve my computer and charger. I yelled down the basement stairs trying to lure Shane out. I confirmed the status of everyone including the dog, finding them safely out of the house, and then I panicked.

Anxiety filled my body at not knowing how bad the fire was but that my beloved refused to come out of the house. Black smoke poured out of the chimney and windows. I remember begging out loud with tears in my eyes, “Don’t let my house burn down! Please don't let me house burn down!” I realized that I needed to warn the neighbors as well as the friend that had our kids and called them both. All I could do was wait until the fire department arrived. Somewhere in here Shane came up out of the basement, left the house, and returned with a garden hose. He had a plan and was seeing it through and would not leave the house despite my begging.

Waiting is hard and I didn’t like it one bit. I started to hop up and down in place,  repeating the only mantra that seemed to keep me sane, “I need to hear sirens. I need to hear sirens. I need to hear sirens.” Abby suggested that I try yelling instead, which I did, but that failed because it made me feel angry, which I wasn’t. I was just panicking. My phone went off in my hand and I looked to find my friend who works with EMS texting me to ask if everyone was OK, as she heard the call on the scanner. I filled her in on our end of things including that I needed to hear sirens and she assured me they were coming. Our fire had been called in as a structure fire and three towns were coming. I can’t say if I felt relief or not, but I did feel an indescribable sense of comfort from her contact.

Arrive they did, starting with the police, then fire, and then EMS, filling our driveway, our road, and the street beyond. It’s hard to describe the senses and urges I had, but I can say I have never before so strongly wanted to urge someone to run. The firefighters seemed to be walking in slow motion, and the first one to reach the front lawn was old, and really slow. I don’t say that to be mean, I say it because it was surreal. Both Abby and I made the recognition and had a good chuckle over it later. At some point our dear neighbor appeared to take the kids, not knowing they weren’t here. She wonderfully wanted to do something to help so she left, went to Dunkin' Donuts, and brought us coffee and donuts. It was at that point that I realized I hadn’t had anything to drink this morning and was very thirsty so that cup of coffee was quite welcome.  Thank you Jenny!

The rest is a bit of a blur of yellow clad firefighters coming and going, in and out of the front and back of the house.  I am so thankful to so many – Bruce, Abby, Shane, Jenny, Allie, Kelly, Carrye – but especially the Bridgton Fire Department, and what ever other towns were there. Was it Waterford? Naples? I lost count. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

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