You might have heard.
In fact you may be one of the many, many (many) people who has reached out to us in kindness because we’ve been well-supported and loved beyond all expectation.
Or maybe you don’t know me. Or my family. Perhaps this is the first you’re hearing about our ordinary afternoon that took a turn toward the surreal; about an old power strip sparking in the garage, the flames spreading too quickly for me to stop them.
I did try.
But within minutes our garage and all its contents were gone, my car in the driveway destroyed; by sunset we were told we’ll be out of our home for at least six months while salvage experts repair the damage done inside.
Someday I will share the details here. The sound and smell of our panic. The sight of ashes and smoke. I will put to words the fear, that moment of surrender when I stopped saying This can’t be happening.
Because it was happening. It happened. On Saturday, January 12th, at three o’ clock.
But today is not the day to rehash these details. What matters now is that we’re safe. Together. So instead of mourning the letters and pictures, the irreplaceable items we’ve lost, I’ll share the goodness that’s ensued.
There has been so much goodness. And I want you all to know.
– About the people – at least a dozen – who saw smoke and called 911 then jumped from their cars or emerged from their homes to help.
– About a stranger who tried to corral my terrified dogs before they could run back into our smoky house for the third time; the couple two doors up who then kept our dogs in their backyard away from harm.
– About the older gentleman who discovered my daughter sobbing two blocks away and walked her safely back to me when I’d been unable to find her.
– About the firefighters from Stations 34 and 37 who arrived in twelve trucks to save our home and attend to our health and welfare; respectful and calm, their faces spoke a truth: This is what we do, what we’ve always done.
– About a neighborhood that flocked to us with coffee and water, blankets and jackets, offers of a place to stay and home-cooked meals.
– About dear friends who dropped everything to care for Jack and Karly or loan us a car; friends who found a permanent home for our displaced guinea pig and friends who took in our beloved dogs until we could find a rental property to accommodate us all.
– About an English teacher who collected donations from her high school students who willingly opened their wallets, handing over lunch money to help a freshman boy they’d never met.
– About our karate studio that filled baskets with comfort items and snacks, kitchen supplies and pictures of my children, their new uniforms and black belts already ordered to replace those that were lost.
– About the flood of love, the messages of concern, the sweet phone calls that lifted us up when we were too foggy to see clearly.
We’re still too foggy to see clearly.
But what I feel is a triumph of the human spirit in our time of need.
I’ve witnessed firsthand the power of generosity over selfishness; of good over its counterpart. I believe that we waste our perilously short stay here on earth – our finite resources of strength and courage – when we spend time fearing others.
Call me naive, but I think the vast majority of us wants nothing more than to be needed. Wanted. Embraced.
And I know the smallest bit of light still conquers darkness.
This is the piano bench that belonged to my grandparents.
I found my old sheet music inside. “La Cathedrale Engloutie” means The Sunken Cathedral. It’s been three decades since I played this song. But I can hear it now. Inside my heart.