Last night a house fire raped and gutted a nearby family’s home, converting possessions and dreams to ash a few hundred yards down our street. You can see the glaring tragedy of it all in my son’s eyes (click on any of these images to see larger versions). No one was hurt, thank God—at least, not outwardly.
An army of firefighters packing (anti) heat descended on our little bay, cordoning off the road to prevent local traffic. Soon thick yellow hoses wiggled like yellow arteries under flashing lights, pushing toward the blaze as if our neighbourhood had awoken to fight off a nasty infection. But it wasn’t just the hoses and flashing lights that woke up. Our people did, too. One family gave up their supper to feed the folks that lost their house. We and another family packed up a few boxes of kid’s clothes and a few winter jackets. My daughter and her friend ran over with a basket of barbies to give away. The community has jumped to life, and it’s wonderful to see. There’s talk of creating a help fund. Cause the house, I’m told, will be bulldozed when the literal and proverbial smoke agree to clear.
The worst (and best) moment arrived when the dad came on the scene. Stumbling forward in disbelief, he found his children (both under seven, I’m told), who clung to him like velcro dolls until he shook off his own spell enough to realize they needed him. Shared tears screamed of panic and an ominous, bone-cold wondering: “Will we be okay, daddy?” When the little boy finally spotted his dog outside, presumed dead but actually rescued by passers-by who risked the flames inside to see if anyone was in the house, he fell apart. That’s when tears found my eyes too, as if perhaps the firefighters could use every drop of moisture they could find, salty or not.
My kids blessed me so much, reflecting on what was going on as night fell. Noah confessed that when he heard there was a fire, his mind immediately conjured a picture of me storming the house to rescue the children. As I filled out a card stuffed with a gift certificate, Glory added her own observation: “That’s what I like about our family. We’re always trying to help people.” As our dinner table filled up with neighbourhood kids willing to help us eat the pizza Shauna had just ordered, my heart swelled with joy. This is what our family is for. What our home is for. What our stuff is for.