November 2, 2007, Brad and I came home from dinner on a Friday night.

When we got out of the car, I told him that it smelled like someone was burning a tire in our neighborhood.

As we walked to the front door, I kept whining to him saying “who on Earth would burn a tire?”.

Brad stuck the key in the lock, turned the knob, and pushed the front door open. In an instant, yellow smoke was pouring out of the house and choking us.

We just looked at each other, and Brad said “it’s our house”.

We started screaming for Miss our dog. And she wasn’t coming. I ran to our garage to try and enter our house from the basement. I opened the basement door, and saw live flames.

Treadmill after the fire.

At that point, I called to Brad and we headed across the street to call the fire department.

I called 9-1-1, and I instantly heard sirens start up. Because we live in a township, 3 different fire departments were called and all showed up within minutes.

Neighbors started pouring out of their houses, and they were all completely lovely and supportive of us as we stood helpless on the sidewalk.

The firemen weren’t able to enter our house to start fighting the fire until the gas company arrived to turn off the gas.

The minutes ticked by in slow motion, and Brad and I tried to wrap our heads around the fact that our dog likely didn’t survive.

Eventually, the gas man came, and the firemen could enter.

They put the fire out fairly quickly- the flames were all confined to the basement, but the smoke damage was in every nook and cranny.

That used to be a yellow and black toolbox. See the tools? 

One fireman was about to leave our house when he thought he heard a whimper. So, he followed the whimper up to our upstairs bathroom. There he found Miss, our beloved black lab, hunkered down in our bathtub. He carried the poor girl to safety.

Our friends and some family started to arrive to help us figure out our immediate next steps.

We went to my brother’s house to stay for the first few weeks before moving into a temporary apartment while our home was put back together again over the following months.

Some of the wreckage from the basement- pizza pans, springform pan, cookbooks, silverware, etc.

A fire is one of those things that you know is a possibility, but you never really imagine would happen to you. You know?

At the time it was traumatic, stressful, scary, and overwhelming.

But I’m telling you today that it is one of the best things that has happened to us.

And here is why:

1. Perspective. Lose all your stuff in a fire, but have everyone that you love be safe (including your ding-dong dog), and you pretty quickly realize what really matters in life. Every THING that I own can be gone in a moment, and I would be ok. Better than ok actually. Since the fire, we have committed to only owning things that we need and actually use. We don’t have a basement or attic or garage filled with crap that maybe someday someone might have a potential use for. Nope. Don’t use it. Don’t need it.

2. Happiness. The most content and happy moments of my life have come after the hardest moments. The fire was terrible, but the feeling of contentment that I had laying on an air mattress in my brother’s house with Brad and our dog that first night we were reunited (after Miss was released from the animal hospital) was one of the most calm, peaceful, and happy moments in our marriage up to that point. While we did mourn our losses, the gratitude for life, marriage, family, friends, etc overwhelmed any of the sadness.

3. Martinis. This is a practical learning. When in a stressful situation, a dirty martini can pretty much fix it. If it can’t totally fix the situation, it can at least make you feel better about it. Grey Goose loved Brad and I while we lived in that darn apartment.

4. Preparation. When the fire happened, we had been married a little over three years. And it was the first big and significant hard experience that we had to go through together as a couple. Little did we know that we would be tested big time in the next 3 1/2 years of our marriage with lots of other challenges and surprises. That fire pulled us together instead of apart, and Brad and I became a real team. Where the stress of the situation could have easily divided us, we committed to only allowing it to make us better and stronger.

5. Love. With the fire, for the first time, I understood how much people want and like to help. Our family and friends and neighbors (and even strangers) came out of the woodwork with offers to help us in any way possible. We had people help us catalog our losses, lend us items that we needed until our things could be replaced, take us out to dinner, and just call to check in on us. That kind of sacrificial and selfless love really carried us through the first weeks.

So, I guess I say all that to say this… my biggest lesson from the fire is that sometimes what seems like the worst thing that could possibly happen may end up being the best thing that could possibly happen. Our house catching on fire really did change us, but it was all for the better. So, if you are in the midst of your own fire right now- rest assured, it can get better. And better. And better. Promise.

So today, I’ll leave you with this: Check your smoke detectors and have a fabulous Wednesday!

XO,
Leah

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