so we had a fire


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, 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.

It does.

It did.

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. 

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Last Modified on January 11, 2019
This entry was posted in Life
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85 thoughts on “so we had a fire

  1. Oh, Julie, I hadn’t heard. How absolutely devastating. I’m so glad you’re safe and that your community has been good to you. But still, it’s grief, isn’t it? Layers of it, I suspect. And yet still, from that place, you write beautifully.

    Sending you peace and hugs from Canada.

  2. Oh honey!! No, I don’t know you enough IRL to know this happened to you, I am so, so, sorry!!!

    Of course thank the heavens that lives were not lost, but bless your hearts for so much that was. I cried reading this and I just hurt knowing how terrified you and your family must have been.

    Hugs to you and if there is anything this Georgia girl can do, you say the word, it’s yours. Love to you. So much love.

  3. Kir

    oh no, oh Julie. I am so sorry. No I didn’t hear but if there is anything I can do, send, help with please reach out to me. I am sending all the hugs and love I can inside these words.

    thank god you are all ok.

  4. Oh Julie. I did not know this happened and I am crying for your misfortune and for the kindness of your community. It is just like you to find the good in a situation so devastating. I will be thinking about you and your family and I hope that you will get to return home soon. Please let me know if you need anything. Seriously. Your online friends would move mountains for you if they could.

  5. What a fitting post to read on Martin Luther King Day. The light has always conquered the darkness. i have lived in a lot of fear in my day and sometimes I forget that the best way to live, regardless of whether it is true or not, is to assume we are all friends with good intentions. I’m glad you got to experience it as true although I am sorry about the circumstances.

  6. jrzgrrl

    Your strength, perseverance, and wit always come through for you and today is no exception. I’ve said it before and I’ll write it again, we are here for you yesterday, today, and always! XXXOOO

  7. Lori Dyan


    Your courage in focusing on the light and love in this situation is astounding and inspiring. Be well and know (beyond any measure) how loved you all are. Sending heaps of positive vibes your way…


  8. I’ve been thinking of you all since I heard, and wishing there were more I could do. Know, though, that if there is some thing, I am here and beyond that, so very grateful that you and your beautiful family are safe and together.

  9. Julie… you know (you KNOW) that if I were as skinny as you I’d give you the clothes off my back if that’s what you needed. (But I think they’d fall off you!) But seriously, you know I am here.

    I would say that your grace under pressure astounds me, but alas it does not. Because I know that this is who you are. Finding triumph and beauty inside of tragedy. And understanding what really matters in life. It just proves the wonderful person that you are. And to write about it so exquisitely… one of the many reasons I will forever be in awe of you!

  10. Stephanie

    Oh no! So sorry to hear this but oh so happy you are all safe!! And that so many people are helping you. Thoughts and prayers with you and your family.

  11. Joann

    I didn’t know. I am sorry about your things. I cried when I read this. It was beauty in ashes

  12. I was so shocked to see what had happened to you guys, and how scary it must have all been. And yes, you were all very lucky…but still, this will take time to process. Hugs to you, sweet friend…xoxo

  13. Oh hon. The kindness of people. I love you and have been thinking of you all non-stop. Love you. xoxo

  14. Julie: You have know my heart is aching for you. I saw your comment on Facebook, and I started to cry.

    Because you feel like a friend.

    You have let me in that way.

    All of us.

    I know you hate the phone.

    I know.

    So I’ll tell you here.

    I’m so glad you didn’t lose your book. And I’m glad you found the kindnesses from those you care about you — friends and strangers, alike. These are good things to know. And I’m so very glad no one was hurt. Things can be replaced. They can. But people, not so much.


  15. Julie, I saw this on FB and couldn’t believe it.

    I know there’s shock, but yet–the gratitude, deeply felt gratitude, that ALL are safe.

    I am so very sorry.

    If I can do anything, please let me know. I”m not good at thnking of things to do, but I am good at holding you in my heart.

    Glad you are all safe, so sorry for all you lost.

  16. So very very sorry.

  17. NannyK

    Beauty from the ashes, sweet sis. You, Bill, Jack & Karly are what makes that home amazing, beautiful, and welcoming. It will be that again. And memories? They are fireproof!! 🙂

  18. Only you and your beautiful heart could see the silver linings. Love to all of you.

  19. Growing up the daughter of a firefighter, my heart always jumped a little when he drove off in his truck, putting his hat on as he pulled out of the driveway. He was heading off to help people, and even though I never knew any of the people he rescued, or the things he was able to save (or not), I was so proud that he was there to help them. Sometimes the situations were devastating, and some times my dad was injured working to save others, but he never wavered, he never complained, he was a volunteer firefighter-he dropped what he was doing to help others.

    I am so glad that you had crews made of people like him to help you out. I am so very sorry for your losses, but you clearly know that home is where your family is. Thank you, as always, for your beautiful words. Stay safe, and let us Minnesota girls know what we can send you to help the healing process. hugs!

  20. Not all people see the light in the darkness. They don’t. You are a special one, Julie.

    So many good things from good people. For someone reason the basket from the Karate studio with pictures of your kids brought the most tears to my eyes.

  21. Suzie Cooper

    You’re still inspiring me with your remarkable courage and ability to see the silver lining of every situation. I cried again as I read this post because it broke my heart to see the family I love so much in such pain. I wanted to take that fear I saw in your eyes and the suffering I know was deep inside your heart and turn back the clocks to a happier time, but of course I couldn’t. You are stronger than you know and are one hell of an amazing woman, mom, wife, daughter, sister, and FRIEND!! Yes, this is going to be a long road to travel, but if anyone can do with grace and humor, it’s you! I’m more thankful than I could express that you guys are safe and in the end united by your unbelievable family bond. And, Oreo is going to be famous…what more could we ask for? 😉

  22. Bob & Le Ann

    We are so happy to hear you all are safe and healthy. Growing up in fire prone California, we have experienced the flames lapping at the edge of our homes and the smell of smoke that lingers for days. But that does not compare to the thought of losing our home and precious momentos.

    It is amazing how we are able to gather the strength to carry forward after such a terrifting time. God bless our family and friends for their love and support.

    You are in our thoughts and prayers,
    Uncle Bob & Aunt Le Ann

  23. Horrible, Julie, but glad no one was physically harmed. Take care.

  24. Hug to you, Julie. I can’t imagine. I’m so glad everyone is safe. That makes it all bearable, I hope.

  25. Sometimes when we’re at the mercy of the elements we learn so much about the mercy of humanity.

    And it’s awful to lose physical reminders of our lives, the stuff we collect over time, the stuff handed down to us by people we love and lose. Of course, everyone says it’s just stuff, that we’re lucky that we’re all alive, blah blah blah.

    They’re right sure, but you also have to give yourself permission over the coming weeks and months (and sometimes years) to grieve the loss of the stuff as well. I still dream about a lost home, more than four years later. Less often, of course, but still, grief is a process and no one gets to give you an expected completion date for that process.

    So, be gentle with yourselves while you heal and rebuild. Also, don’t skimp on the electrician. 😉

  26. Julie,

    I had not heard, and I am devastated.

    I need to know NOW–what I can do for you. What do you need? Where can I send things? How can I help?
    Please email me at erinmargolin at gmail or call me 913.486.2938. I love you. I am so very sorry. But I am relieved and emotional and so HAPPY you are all safe, SAFE. ALIVE.

    My heart is pounding. I love you. I’m sharing this everywhere.

  27. I just saw this, Julie. How absolutely scary and horrible, but I’m not surprised you’re focusing on the kindness and good in this event. Thinking of you and your family.

  28. Valerie Gardhouse

    Oh Julie, this is so tragic, and yet so beautifully expressed and written by you. I am crying reading this, but so thankful you are safe. We are just down the Freeway in Simi Valley if we can ever be of help in anyway…although I see you have a tremendous outpouring of love and help. I am praying for your family.

  29. This is the first I’ve heard of the fire and I’m so sorry to hear that this happened. I’m glad that so many people were there to support you.

    Hugs to you and your family and everyone who has helped.

  30. Julie, you’re being held in so many hearts right now. Including mine. So glad you all are safe.

  31. Julie, this is just so unbelievable, but what an incredibly beautiful story of hope and caring.

  32. I am so, SO sorry this happened. How scary! I’m glad that such good people surround you and that you and your family are all safe!

  33. I’m just glad you all are okay. (And that there may be hot, shirtless guys doing laundry at your hotel.) Things will be back to normal soon. Just so glad everyone is safe and unharmed.

  34. Deb

    As I mentioned on Day 1 … thank god you are all safe. Now that that’s said, we can all be thankful that I’ve got the double-lined loves-of-our-lives notes written in 9th grade algebra class in MY garage. 🙂

    Take care and let us know if you need ANYTHING …. including a good laugh or cry.

  35. Phyllis & Bob Q

    Dear Julie, Bill, Jack, and Karly:

    You are in our hearts always, but especially at a time like this. We are so grateful that you are all OK. We send hugs and all our love.

  36. Oh my… I am so sorry for your loss. I think that it’s wonderful though how your neighbors & friends in the community really stepped up and helped you out.

    I’m glad that everyone is safe.

  37. This beautiful post brought tears to my eyes. You are so loved, Julie. You and your family. My thoughts are with you every day!

  38. I am so terribly sorry to learn about this. Thank goodness you are all OK. Obviously, it is devastating to lose your things. I have had friends experience similar losses, and I understand how much it hurts. We do learn the most about ourselves and others in these situations. How wonderful that you have so many who care and have come to your assistance.

    My thoughts and prayers will be with you as you continue to heal and rebuild your lives.

  39. Julie, I’m so glad you are all safe and the animals are safe and that you have a home to go back to eventually. I hope so much that it’s sooner rather than later and you have a place to call home in the meantime.

  40. I’m so sorry for all your troubles. I’m so glad however that all the living things in your life are safe and sound. I will be thinking only warm and positive things for you and your family.

  41. How in the absolute hell did I not know this happened? I’ve been thinking of you, wondering about the book so much since around Christmas but hadn’t checked in. I’m sorry I didn’t check in. Also, shit. And all of the other bad words that are pointless for me to say that I’m sure have already been uttered. If there is anything you need that I can help with, please let me know. To know though, that you and your family are safe, that you lost precious things but not one another, I am grateful. To know that you’ve had people rally around you to help and comfort and DO, I am grateful.

  42. How did I not know this? How?
    I’m so very sorry that this happened.
    But oh my, the love, the kindness, the generosity, the spirit.
    It’s not just a reflection of the community around you, it is a reflection of your family, what good, kind people YOU are.
    Thoughts and love are with you. xo

  43. I can’t believe I missed this – I’m so sorry about how topsy-turvy this must have made everything. I’m so, so thankful that you and your family and pets are safe, and and sending you all the hope and healing and optimism you need.

  44. Julie I’ve been thinking of you ever since I saw the news on Facebook. I am so so sorry but so thankful that you are safe. Sending you so much love and a long distance offer to do anything I can.

  45. Oh, Julie. I’m so, so sorry, sorrier than a few words in a blog comment can express. I’m also so grateful that you, your husband, your precious children, and your pets are safe. I can’t imagine how scary a time this must be. Please know that we’re thinking of you here in Boston, with 110% genuine offers to help in any way we can.

  46. Mel

    Oh sweetie! I am so glad that you are all safe and that you have been surrounded by such kindness. My prayers are with you.

  47. cousin Heidi

    Your family, including the fuzzy members, has been in our thoughts and prayers!

  48. Julie, I am so sorry this happened to your family. Your voice is still positive and optimistic, and what a testament that is to your outlook. Thinking of you and sending love.

  49. Mamaintheburbs

    I’m so sorry to hear what has happened to your family. I am glad that everybody is safe and together. It’s nice to hear about all the kindness from your friends and community. I wish you well as you go through this most difficult time.

  50. Julie: I am so very sorry for your loss. I admire your strength and optimism. Thank God no one was seriously injured. My prayers go out to you and your family. Kristal

  51. Farrah

    Julie I’m stunned and so sorry.

  52. I am so not surprised that an absolute army of people wrapped its collective arms around your family and are taking care of you.

    I’m so happy that amidst a lot of stuff that could really drag a person down, you are feeling lifted up.

    Let me know if you need anything. xoxoxo

  53. Julie.

    I am so sorry. I am so glad you’re getting such support and love. And I wish that I could do something for you besides tap out some words.

    But know that you’ve got a big soft pillow, in the event you need to fall for a bit. We’ll catch you and hold on tight.

  54. allison

    One of the many reasons that I love you and your kids– is your ability to see the bright side during dark situations.

    You can tell Karly that I was her age exactly when our house flooded and we lost everything– but we had the good fortune as you did to all be safe including our four legged family members. What seemed like such a big deal then. . (My Guess jeans that I begged for months for!!) is a funny story now. That is how time heals. And, my parents house never looked better than it did after it was put back together again. So, there is that to look forward to. (Did I just start a sentence with and???)

    I will– when you are settled– send you some pics that I have of the kids saved up just in case you don’t have them anymore. IF I can do anything else– please don’t hesitate to let me know. It is so nice to hear how many people stepped up to help you, Bill, Jack, and Karly. But, there are more still– so do not hesitate!

    All my best-

  55. Julie, I’m so sorry. This is the first I’ve heard. I’m glad you and your family is okay.

    I’m so glad you found light in dakrness. Hugs and prayers from me and my family.

  56. I am so sorry this happened and so glad everyone is ok.

  57. Missy

    I am only an occasional reader, but as a fellow AHS alum I check here once in a while. I am sorry to hear about your family’s tragedy, but glad that you are all safe and unharmed! Your reflections on such an unimaginable and frightening event are touching, and can remind us all to hug our loved ones and be thankful for what we have.
    You and your family are in my prayers,

  58. I cried Julie, as much for the pain of what you’re going through as for the beauty of human kindness that you were treated to.

    Love you

  59. Oh, Julie. I’m so very sorry you’ve had to go through this. I’m glad that you have people around you who have been able to help ease some of your loss. xo

  60. I’m so happy you and the family are OK. And I’m so sorry about your things and your home. I’m glad you have our heart and that others do, too.


  61. Oh my god, I can’t even imagine how horrible this must have been for you and your family – something you only see on the evening news. So, so relieved you’re all safe. Fires are terrifying and you’re reminding me to work on my family escape plan. xoxo

  62. I’m so so sorry. My thoughts and prayers are with your family. I hope to soon be reading more posts on the kindness and progress you see and feel as your world heals. (Not that you’re not encouraged to grieve and vent here as well! Your blog is a gift to all you share it with. Thank you!)

  63. ***Call me naive, but I think the vast majority of us wants nothing more than to be needed. Wanted. Embraced.***


    No.No way.
    You are beautifully wise.

    Xx Kisses & Hugs from Minnesota.

  64. Robin

    So sorry to hear about the fire. Sending you my best Julie.

  65. I cried my way through this. For you. For your family. For your loss. And because of all that goodness and generosity that came your way. I’m so thankful you’re okay, that you and yours are safe.
    Much love to you, my friend. Another bone-crushing hug from me. And tears. Lots of tears.

  66. This is the first I’ve heard . . . let me just say how thankful I am to hear that everyone is safe from injury.

    I love that others came to your aid, whether they knew you or not. I love that life will return to normal, sometime, for you. I hate that there are losses that are lost forever — and some of those things might be things that you won’t even know were lost. I hate that you’re dealing with a long road ahead, before “normal” can even be considered. But I love that you’ll be able to share that road with us.

  67. This is also the first I’ve heard. Bless you and your family. i didn’t know why you hadn’t been online, and I was hoping all was well with you. My heart is with you. Sending love your way. I’m so very glad you are all okay.

  68. Someone took in the guinea pig? That may be the most amazing act of kindness and selflessness I have ever read about.
    (I try and give laughs.)

  69. Oh Julie, how glad I am that your family and pets were safe. I am sad for the things you lost but happy to hear you already embracing the things you gained. You are a strong and beautiful soul.

  70. Here from Five Star Friday …. that’s quite a post you wrote there. Quite a perspective, and quite some triumph.

    Love to you, as you rebuild and repair.

    The best things in life aren’t things.

    x eden

  71. OMG Julie, I have tears. yes, you are surrounded my goodness and generosity. Thank goodness.

    {I’m so relieved you’er all okay. Thinking about you all.}


  72. My heart goes out to you and your family. I completely understand how you feel as we have had 2 house fires at 100% loss both times. I’m glad to hear everyone was safe. It takes time to pick up all the pieces and digest mentally & emotionally everything that was lost. Just try to keep in mind the most important gifts over the years are standing right at your side.
    On a lighter note, a year from now you find yourself smiling in a room of your house. I can’t tell you how many times since the last fire I set out to look for an object I know I have. I swear up and down I have seen this object in several places in the new house. It isn’t until I stop and take a breath I realize, “oh crap we lost that in the fire”. I once spent 3 days looking high and low for a hand chocolate grater he he he he

  73. This breaks my heart, Julie. Oh my god. How utterly devastating. I can’t even…oh my word. I’m trying so hard to envision it–like you and your family. Real people. My stomach just dropped.

    It’s moments like these that make you rethink everything. The past. The future. What’s important.

    I’m so, so glad all are safe, including your fur babies. There’s that. Which is so very huge. What seems so tragic could’ve been just…unthinkable. You have a lot of new memories to make now. This is what I would hold on to. That you still have them there to make these memories. The truly irreplaceable things survived.

    But you know that. I can read it in your post, and for that my heart hurts a little less for you. Just a little. I know the loss is not a small one. But, oh my god, how much greater it could’ve been. So so thankful you’re still here.

  74. Magnificent!!!! Thanks for a simple, concise and yet totally incisive reiteration of how people are good and the world is not an awful place.

  75. Oh my goodness I hadn’t heard and I’m SO so so sorry for your loss. Something like that is so crushing and so endlessly so. I’m glad you’ve managed to find joy in it all and I’m so glad that all of your family is physically okay. Let me know if there’s absolutely anything I can do to help.

  76. Oh Julie. I have know about this for a while, obviously. I am so very sorry. I have been praying for you, but if there is anything…ANYTHING…I can do from way over here, please let me know.

    much love to you, friend.


  77. I am so very sorry about your home, about your irreplaceable keepsakes. Thank God you are safe and that your family was surrounded by support from your neighborhood. God bless that older gentleman who walked your daughter home to you.

    We had a car accident in September, and I was, like you are, astounded by the beautiful side of human nature. I also have immense respect for firefighters now.

    God bless and keep your family, Julie

  78. Oh Juile. I am so, so sorry. I’m glad to hear you are all okay physically but I know mentally it will take time to feel like yourselves again. You were taken care of by some very special people because you are special. My heart goes out to you and your family. You are in my thoughts.

  79. Ann

    Oh my. Julie, I’m terribly sorry. Your post full of gratitude shows your resilience in the face of awfulness, but I hope you continue to be surrounded by love and helping hands. And especially good food and a comfy bed.

    I’m so sorry for your loss–for all the losses. So glad everyone is okay.

  80. How terrifying. And how good to know that there are always those who run towards us to help.

  81. Oh, sweetie, I am so, SO sorry. I am so glad that no one was hurt but am aching for you in your pain of memories and peace. Please keep us updated. Is there anything I can do for you?

  82. france

    Oh my Julie just catching up. So sorry you had to go through that flash everyone is okay.

  83. Susan from GA

    Hi Julie! I met a “sister friend” a while back by happenstance on the http://www….Janie Fox. She wrote to my heart…with laughter, tears, and deep thoughts.

    So, today, Janie mentioned you on fb. So, I’m guessing since she likes you, I will too. Seems like you two have an unfortunate connection w/flames. So, so sorry about it for both of you.

    I look forward to moving forward down “the path” reading about your life and times on the www.

    Hugs to you,
    Susan from GA

  84. You are a beautiful writer. I admire you so much for seeing the good. For loving all the people who came out to help, and for reminding us, at a time when it is so easy to view bad behavior as the new normal, that there are many helpful, wonderful people out there. People who want to be there for others because that is simply what one does. I am so sorry, Julie.

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