August 25 was the first day of school. I got to school early and had scheduled a massage that afternoon. It was such a great day, and I remember feeling that I was so relaxed, for the first time in a couple of weeks.
When I got home that night, Dan and I needed to run some errands. We decided while we were out to stop and get dinner. When we walked out of the restaurant, we noticed that the wind was really gusty and commented about the crazy weather. We had a last minute errand that needed to be run, and then we were headed home. As we drove along Federal Way, we could see smoke, and my heart started to race. I couldn't be certain, but the smoke looked very close to our neighborhood. As we got closer, we could tell that it was below the homes on the hill, and we thought we were safe. We thought maybe it was just a house fire. Regardless, we hurried home, taking a back route to get there faster as we could see people were already starting to flood the area.
As we pulled into the neighborhood, the smoke was getting pretty thick. I could barely see a firetruck that was parked on the corner. I had planned on going to the house with Dan to get the animals and some keepsakes, but the smoke was too thick, so I dropped Dan off. I told him to get the dog, the cat, and the photos. I turned around and tried to see if I could get through another way. I got to the corner of Sweetwater and Immigrant's Pass and could see people evacuating. A neighbor came out telling us that another neighbor's home was on fire and to get out. At this time, the fire batallion chief drove by and announced the evacuation order. The fire seemed to be contained to one or two rim homes and more firetrucks were on their way. I had talked to my husband who said he had the dog and was grabbing photos. He couldn't find the cat. His phone was dying, and this was the last phone conversation. I waited at the exit to the road. I kept trying to call him, at one point leaving a message screaming, "GET OUT." The evacuation order was spreading and seemed to be getting more urgent. I waited some more. I had called a friend who offered her home for us to wait it out in. I told her I didn't know where my husband was or where the fire was. Finally, Dan emerged with the dog. He couldn't get the cat. The only solace we had was that she was outside and hopefully would flee.
We went to our friend's house and waited. My husband wanted to watch the news coverage. I couldn't bear to do it. It's one thing to lose your home. It's quite another to watch it happen. So I sat on the couch holding on to the little bit of hope that one can find in those moments. I had my dog and was hoping my cat was safe. Both my husband and I were ok. Those were good things. I also reminded myself that I had no control over the situation, and that we would deal with whatever happened.
We started getting calls about 8:30 and assured everyone that we were indeed out and ok and that "yes, that is our street." My mom was in Sweeden, planning to return to the states the next day. I looked up her hotel information and called her, asking the receptionist what time it was there. 4:10, she said (9:10 our time). The phone rang, and my very tired step-dad answered the phone. I told my mom about the fire and that we didn't know if we still had a home. She turned on her cell phone, and I promised to touch base.
My husband and friend's husband decided to return to the neighborhood to see if they could get any additional information. Around 9:30 we got the call that the police were checking to see if we still had a home. I said aloud, "I have about 3 more minutes of hope, and then I will know." And then we did. Total devastation.
We have spent the last 48 hours figuring out how to rebuild a life. Everything from our past, with the exception of a few photo albums, was gone. The picture frame in our living room with our wedding photo that would soon be replaced with an 8x10 family photo. The engraved toasting flutes from our wedding. The dresser in the nursery that had been passed down from my grandfather to my dad to me that we had just painted. The coming home outfit for our son that I had put so much thought into. The Christmas stocking for my husband that I had just finished quilting. The books... the books, especially the ones that authors had signed over the years. The antique cameras that had been given to us from various family over the years. Literally, everything.