Updated: Nov 25, 2022
There's a wise old saying, "You don't know what you've got till it's gone". Most would attribute this quote to relationships and people. For me, it has a deeper meaning with a subtle twist. On Friday, December 21, 2012, which most documented as the end of the world I was faced with a harsh reality. I went to work that day and was having a pretty good day. I won a DVD player and I was excited to go home and connect it to my flat-screen television. I got off work at 4:30 p.m. and it takes me about 45 minutes to get home with traffic. As I approached the street I lived on I noticed they had the road blocked off. I chopped it up to there being another traffic accident because vehicles were constantly wrecking coming around that curve. When the cop advised me there was no way I would be allowed down that road I proceeded to turn around. I went around the block and tried the other entrance. As I got closer it was almost like life had slowed down and appeared to be going in slow motion. I can recall seeing several fire trucks, water in the streets, and a water hose going across the street. Still not processing I said to myself, "What has happened!" I drove closer to the entrance and saw more fire trucks and then I saw it.
My building and livelihood were gone. All I saw was the clear blue sky piercing through where my once-upon-a-time home sat. I saw my neighbor’s home and there was nothing but black charcoal walls and infrastructure. I immediately went into shock and wanted to fall to the ground on my knees. A fireman came over to me and said, "Ma'am you’re going to have to move your vehicle." All I could reply back with was, “I live there." The fireman tried to compose me and another neighbor approached and said, "Let her in she lives here." My whole body was in a state of shock. I felt like I literally stepped on a set of a movie. The director had shot a blown-up scene and I was standing in the aftermath just waiting for someone to yell let’s put everything back together. I had completely zoned out. The fireman asked, “If I could move my car and he would assist me.” I somehow managed to move that car and I don't know how. I got out and walked toward my apartment avoiding the news reporters and cameraman holding my head down as a neighbor escorted me. I couldn't even look at the building where my home once stood. My landlord approached me and said, "I'm so sorry I tried to contact you, but I couldn't reach you." She couldn't reach me, because when we started doing the giveaway at work I put my phone away in my purse. I normally take my phone off vibrate when I get off and put it on the seat in my car, but not this particular day. I looked at it as if God intervened because he knew had I seen the text from my dad that my complex was trying to reach me or heard my landlord tell me over the phone my place was on fire. I probably would've panicked.
The setback and road to recovery
When I went into the clubhouse I saw my other neighbors I was the last to find out what had happened. I was still in shock I couldn't even cry. I just stood in disbelief wishing this was a horrible dream. I had different people coming at me from American Red Cross personnel, neighbors, and strangers all wanting some type of reaction and answers. I couldn't speak. I was so overwhelmed I sat down. Someone tried to embrace me with a white blanket I brushed it off. My home was gone and there was nothing I could do I felt helpless and cold. I looked at my clothes and purse because those were the only belongings I had. Ironically that day I had on some older attire. We were asked to wear pink to work to celebrate a co-worker celebrating her breast cancer survival. The only thing I had long sleeve and pink was an older shirt and it was a little too small. I also made the mistake of grabbing the smallest pea coat I had. Here I am no home and the only clothes I had were too small for me. People were telling me to put my purse down and get something to eat. I didn't want any food, I was not thirsty and I was not putting my purse down that was all I had left. Shortly after I got up and went outside, because I had to call my part-time job and let them know I wasn't coming in. When I heard my co-worker on the phone I broke down. I couldn't even utter the words I just lost my home and everything I owned. A woman from Red Cross had to complete the conversation for me.
The next call I had to make was to my parents. I couldn't handle that one either, so I called my grandmother. I don't recall what I said, but it was quick and short. She immediately told me to hang up and that she would call my parents. I felt alone who could I call who would believe me? I called a local friend of mine and I managed to get most of it out and asked if she could come. She came and sat with me in a room full of neighbors and strangers. She became my spokesperson because I couldn't give the fireman any information I was in total shock. I was happy to see all of my neighbors were unharmed, but I felt so empty and cold. This is the kind of stuff you see in the movies or on the news I never thought it would happen to me.
Hours later around 10:00 p.m. they moved us to a hotel that Red Cross put us in for five days. I drove to the hotel following behind my friend’s car in silence and just sat in the room waiting for my parents to arrive. All I wanted to do was go home put the key in my door and take a shower in my bathroom. When my parents got there and I saw my mom. I collapsed in her arms and the tears started to flow. I was too overwhelmed with grief to speak. After sitting with me for a while my parents wanted to go to the store to get me a few items to help me get through the night. I didn't have the strength to go into the store I didn't want to buy things I knew I had at home. I just wanted them to take me home. Even trying to explain to my younger brother what had happened I had to show strength I didn't have.
I recalled buying a toothbrush and I broke down in the aisle in the store because I had a flashback of my toothbrush in the holder on my sink. With each purchase that evening it was like that. Buying underwear was even hard. I haven't brought underwear in a pack in so long that I didn't know what size to get. All I wore were Victoria's Secret undies and it was too late to shop there. I didn't get any sleep that night I just sat on the bed and stared at the wall. When you go through something like that you’re never prepared for it. The questions I was being asked were how, when, and why? I would respond I don't know because I didn't know at the time. My childhood memories were gone and I didn't know why or how. The cause of the fire was still unknown. People would also ask me what do I plan to do. I would respond please don't ask me any questions, because all I can do is literally go minute by minute.
A New Beginning
Before the fire, I had dreams of being a publicist in the entertainment industry. I guess God knew he had to destroy my old existence to move me forward into my destiny. God won't give us more than we can bare. That is why I wasn't home and why the phone calls to warn me didn't reach me. I considered myself to be like the phoenix bird that rose from the fire unharmed. I contribute the fire as God's way of lighting a match under me. To ignite the fuel I needed to go after my dreams.
Love and Grace,
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