The Time: 0615
The Place: Casa Gunfighter
Dramatis Personae: Gunfighter, and Olivia (Mrs Gunfighter is in Boston)
The Scene: A dark, just-post-daylight-savings-time morning, in Virginia.
My eyes snap open to see the clock, just as my mind registers the sound of the fire engines... I close them, thinking: "The old people are dying early this morning" (there is an assisted living facility 50 yards behind our house). There are more sirens and my eyes open again. This time, I get out of bed. I went to the window and looked out to see two firefighters traipsing though the garden in the back of the house. They had searchlights. I thought: "that's odd!"
That is when I smelled the smoke.
When I smelled the smoke, I had what I like to call an "oh s**t!" moment... and that's exactly what I thought. I paused just a moment, while standing there in my underwear, before grabbing Olivia and telling her to put on her sweat pants, to get Shelby (her favorite stuffed animal) her hat and coat and wait by the door.
There wasn't much smoke, but I wasn't taking any chances.
I pulled on my sweats, shoes, and jacket. Before getting out of the house, I grabbed Susan's laptop, camera, my jumpdrive with photos, my gun, and our box of important papers and we headed out.
This is what we saw:
(The car in the foreground is mine.)
I turned and noted that the smoke and flames were coming out of the house two doors up from us (we live in a townhouse). I did a quick nose-count of the bystanders nearby and accounted for all of the near-neighbors, and knew that all of them were OK... it was also immediately plain that the house in question was a goner.
Since our house wasn't immediately threatened, I went back in while Olivia waited with one of our neighbors and their daughter, and brought out of few more things, just in case (know what I mean?), and put them in the trunk of my squad car.
The firefighters did a fine job and the fire was out quickly (mad props to the O.W.L. VFD). As it turns out, it was an electrical fire, started by a dryer. The poor teen aged girl that had been using the dryer saw the flames right away... and promptly threw water on the flames.... and I am sure you know what happened then.
I was proud of the way most of our neighbors reacted... some of them, not so much.
The people that lived in the house were renters, and because they had to vacate so quickly, they didn't take their cel phones with them, so it was a few hours before they could get the homeowner on the telephone to tell her what had happened.
The girls, Olivia and neighbor girl Fionna, were sitting on another neighbor's front steps...
...and were getting cold, so I asked one of the firefighters if there was any reason that we couldn't go back in the house. He said it would be alright if we did, so Olivia and Fionna got in her bed and watched cartoons while Adelle, Fionna's mom watched the doings outside, from my rocking chair.
The American Red Cross was really quick to respond, and Monique, her daughter and granddaughters all huddled at our kitchen table together while the Red Cross reps arranged for hotels and relief supplies, etc... I was feeling a little useless... so I made tea. Yeah, I know, not much of a gesture, but since it was about a fire and not about a firefight, I wasn't much good to anyone... the least I could do was to be hospitable.
The whole scene was wrapped up at around 0930, at which time, I showered and changed for work. I dropped Olivia at school (50 minutes late), and went to work.
Olivia did well, and although she was a little shaken up, she is OK. As for me... I'm not sure what I am feeling, but I think that the chief emotion is relief.
I was supposed to go to choir practice tonight... but I thought Olivia and I could stand some at-home-together-time, so we bagged it, and ordered a pizza.
I would ask all of you who are praying people, to do just that for my neighbors. They have suffered terribly today, and although they are physically whole, I am sure that the extra support,that prayer can bring, will work wonders.