This blog is finally reaching out to a larger community of fire survivors, and I have been so fortunate that many people have reached out to share their stories. I am starting a series each Friday (hopefully) that shares the stories of others and the lessons they have learned through the experiences. I truly hope that you will consider sharing your story. Please email me at email@example.com. I just got a wonderful email last night from a family who is moving home today after their fire last fall. I want to wish them all the best. Home. You don't know how much you will miss it until it's gone.
Today's story comes from a woman I met on Twitter. I feel fortunate to have been able to connect with her and maybe help as she deals with the trauma that the fire has inflicted on her life. Here is Steph's story.
My house burned down on September 25, 2008 [exactly one month after our fire if you're counting]. I was 30, a mom to 2 young kids, and raised exotic animals in my house. My husband and I had been married for nearly ten years and had bought our house shortly after we were married.
On the day of the fire, I was out of town, in Minneapolis, to lend support to my friend and goddaughter, who was critically ill. The day had already started off poorly, as I had just learned that my husband lost his job. We were on our way to the Rainforest Cafe at the Mall of America when my phone rang. That call would change my life.
It is believed an oscillating fan in the house shorted out, though they have never been able to definitely prove this. When the dispatcher from the police department called me, I was terrified and worried about the animals that were in our house, including my fifteen year old border collie who I later learned did not survive. I had gotten this dog during my previous marriage, and she had been there during my divorce, remarriage, adoption of our daughter, and pregnancy. She was my best friend, quite literally. The hardest thing for me is imagining how she might have died. Those images haunt me, and I often have to take anti-anxiety medication to sleep. I have struggled with crippling PTSD since the fire that make it difficult to leave the house and almost impossible to leave town. I also store less of my items in my house and refuse heirloom hand-me-downs.
One piece of advice I have is to never leave electric appliances running when you leave your house even if they seem benign and run on a timer or thermostat. The possibility of a short exists.
As far as insurance, it has been a nightmare because the origin of the fire has never been conclusive. I recommend giving them whatever information they ask for even if it feels intrusive or irrelevant because if you don't, they will use it against you. Write down all details of your conversations with your insurance company, including who you talked to, what time it was, and what they said in detail. You may need it. Also, don't be afraid to get your agent involved if you have one or to contact the state insurance commission; they are a powerful tool. Also, submit your contents list as soon as possible but reserve the right to add to it as you remember.
I finally settled my claim with insurance a year ago yesterday, on my birthday.
Steph has recently been blogging about her fire, and I encourage you to check out her blog and read her story in more depth there. I believe that writing is cathartic and a powerful tool in healing. Thank you for sharing your story Steph.