What is the largest fear you have?
For me growing up, it was the fear of fire. I don’t know what sparked this fear in me, but my earliest nightmares were being in a fire of some sort and not being able to escape.
Well I am here to say, I survived my greatest fear. Labor Day 1996: it was a long weekend and my brother was coming down from Portland to celebrate my sister’s birthday. I remember the events of that day almost as if it happened yesterday. I woke up to a warm day and the birds singing in the trees. I knew immediately it would be a warm day, so I wanted to get some household things done before it got too hot.
As I worked in the kitchen I had the door open and I could hear someone coming down the driveway honking their horn. It was much too early for my brother to be arriving, so I went outside to greet the visitor. “YOUR HOUSE IS ON FIRE” “YOUR HOUSE IS ON FIRE” he yelled twice before I could really comprehend what he was saying. He pointed at the roofline and I could see flames coming up from the roof. He asked, “where is your hose?”, so I quickly grabbed it for him and turned it on. I then ran to tell everyone inside, and call the fire department. My daughter was 5 and playing a game on the computer in the Parlor, and my son was in the large tub we had, playing battleship or something. He was 4. I grabbed him out of the tub dripping wet and took them outside and waited.
More and more cars started to arrive in my driveway. The man was still trying to reach the water to the roofline, which was somewhat hopeless. See I lived in a house that was built-in 1854 out in the country. So roof was much higher up than the standard houses you see today, and well my water pressure was not much of anything.
I was shaking like a leaf, but had a strong face on for the kids so they wouldn’t see my fear. I waited for the fire department to come, it seemed like eternity. It wasn’t, but you know when you get that feeling of anxiousness and the time just tick tocks away ever so slowly….
The fire department felt hopeful that they could put the fire out with minimal loss to the house and our things. As they got things set up, I had a stranger ask me if I wanted to use her phone to call anyone as she just lived down the street. I accepted her offer and got in a strange car. The sky seemed so blue, and everything seemed so silent on the drive over. Called my mom and explained to her what was happening and asked if she would be wiling to come pick up my son and daughter. We packed back into the car and made the journey back to the smoky driveway.
After being there a while, I noticed more people coming to watch the commotion of the fire, firefighters and smoke rising to the air. I recall people saying, “what a shame such a beautiful historic house gone”. I was angry by that statement; it was my house, my things that were going up into flames.
Soon you could hear the firemen talking, “it doesn’t look like we will be able to stop the flames, where are some of your valuables, we will try to save them from the flames?” I thought hard about where the pictures were, where my jewelry was, what should they save? Why would they risk going into this scary firy building to save my pictures? They did, though, they went back in and with instruction from the chief on his radio, you could hear the firemen respond, found it…coming out the back window.
The time didn’t go so slow in the afternoon, I finally sat down as the flames were starting to diminish, people were leaving and darkness was settling in on the valley. I stood there, not a tear came down my face, he stench of burning wood, smoldering clothes mixed in with wetness filled my senses.
It was a few days later the tears began to flow, tears of sadness, shock but also tears of thankfulness. My family was safe, and I had survived my biggest fear.
I look back now, and I know that I have some large fears, but I also know that somehow I will make it through.
this was my house, before it burned down. Pictures courtesy Oregondigital.org