I had a lot to write about today. As I was sitting down to write the post, however, I watched on the news as a brush fire started across the river from us. The news crews had been up in our neighborhood to cover the anniversary of the fire. As soon as the coverage was over, the news broke the story that another fire had started. I went outside and watched as the hillside, a hundred yards from a large neighborhood, on fire. For 15 minutes or more, we could see smoke, no flames, and the wind was headed up the mountain away from the homes. With wind though, you never know when it will change directions, and my heart started to sink as it turned back toward the subdivision. When I saw flames, I started to cry. Thankfully, the fire was extinguished before any homes were at risk, but it was a reminder of our vulnerability living in a high fire danger area. While my reasons for rebuilding here seemed so smart a year ago, there are now times that I question that decision.
And now for what I was going to write:
When I woke up on August 25, 2008, I didn't know that my life was about to change. And every moment leading up to 6:30 doesn't matter now because it was a part of my life that has changed beyond recognition. On August 25, 2008, I was naive. I believed that if my life was going to change I was have some prophetic moment where I would put a few things in my car just because. Instead I took things out, wanting my car to be clean.
When we came home that night and saw the fire, my heart sank. It was that moment that felt prophetic, and all too late. Fortunately our home wasn't on fire when we got to our neighborhood, and Dan was able to get the dog out. I remember driving around behind our house in panic trying to figure out exactly how I could get into our house to get our cat, who, at that point, would only come to me. I drove down Immigrant Pass, with the evacuation order following me, so I turned around. I drove a few streets away trying to figure out where to park so that I could find Dan because his cell phone had died. I remember stopping the car, getting out and pacing, dry heaving, getting back in the car, driving a couple of feet, getting back out, pacing, and dry heaving. I did this all the way down the street for at least five minutes... it felt a lot longer though. When the evacuation order got to me there, I remember calling Dan, screaming "GET OUT" even though I knew he wouldn't get the message until he was with me and safely out of danger. But in those moments I questioned his judgment and wondered why it was taking so long. All I had asked for were some photos and the animals. It shouldn't be taking this long. I have had time to reflect in the months since about what could have happened, and I think if I had allowed my mind to go there in those moments by the side of the road, I would have been doing more than dry heaving.
When Dan pulled up, I looked into the car and was amused that Bill Clinton's audiobook My Life had been saved. I was glad he had grabbed the computer and my wedding ring, both on his own accord. I remember driving to our friend's house, seeing the litany of fire engines headed toward the fire and feeling reassured. Surely if all of those engines were on the scene, our home would be spared. It couldn't happen to us.
When we got to my friend's house, I got out of my car and proceeded to throw up and urinate at the same time. The joys of pregnancy and stress. It is a very humbling moment to realize that the only clothes you own, you've now peed on. Thankfully my friend let me take a shower and threw my clothes in the washing machine for me and knocked on doors to find some clothes that I could wear, being eight months pregnant.
I remember getting online to talk to my online message board friends, hoping that their good thoughts could will the fire away from our home. I remember the phone call to my mom in Sweden, she thinking that I was her hotel wake-up call to leave for the airport. My call woke them up for sure. I remember sitting in my friend's living room watching the DNC because I couldn't bear to turn to the network news (watching is a loose term). Dan and our friends were walking in and out of their spare bedroom to watch the coverage, not sure if our house was still standing. I remember Dan deciding to go back up to our neighborhood to see if he could get some more information, and me feeling so vulnerable and alone even though I was sitting there with my friend. I remember (and will always remember) the call I received when he said, "It's gone."
Once we knew our house was a loss, we went to Fred Meyer to get some essentials. I needed a pair of pants that fit (btw, I really love my sweatpants!). I remember buying the clothes and heading straight to the Fred Meyer bathroom to change - because really where else was I going to change. I was homeless. I remember standing in the electronics section looking for a car charger for our phones, which were ringing non-stop, and being surrounded by the news coverage. I didn't want to watch my home burn down on my friends 27 inch television. I certainly didn't want to watch it on 60 52" flat screens. I couldn't escape my reality.
I remember meeting other families at Trail Wind. I remember seeing Pete Ryder, whose wife was missing. I remember believing in the depths of my soul that they had just gotten separated, that no one had been hurt in the fire. I remember sitting at a cafeteria table talking to the reporter knowing that we needed help but feeling ashamed to ask for it. We are so grateful to Katy for being such a kind reporter and for reaching out to us personally, not just because it helped her professionally.
And I remember sneaking through the neighborhoods, past police barricades, so that we could get back and see the damage. Maybe it wasn't REALLY gone. But it was. I had such hope when I saw some of the brick in front of the house thinking that half a wall still standing somehow indicated that our home hadn't just burned down.
Today I feel as though we are reliving the fire, those moments are being burned (pardon the pun) into our memories. It has forever changed the course and direction of my life. And we appreciate all of your support as we have navigated through it, as we find what normal means again.