It started with a klaxon bell at 4:30 yesterday morning.
From a distance, I understand it looked like this:
The tall building behind the smoke? Yeah. That’s where I live.
[If you’re anything like me, you’re feeling awfully nervous at this point in the story. Lemme jump ahead a moment and reassure everyone: I am okay. Hildi and Nathan are both okay. Everyone else is okay too: no lives were lost, either among my neighbors or the firefighters.]
You can see a few more pictures here.
Since my evacuated neighbors and I all ended up standing on a sidewalk a block or two away, we didn’t see most of this as it was happening. These pictures look as new — and frighteningly dramatic! — to me today as they probably will to you. (I’m rather partial to Nos. 2 and 9, myself.)
In fact, until I heard from a young woman who lives several floor below me, in a unit facing south towards the site of the fire, I had no idea how bad this really was. I got my first clue as she described how she woke up: “my window was bright orange from the flames, and it was already hard to breathe from the smoke — even though my window was only open that far!” [Gestured an inch apart with her fingers.] She described how much trouble she had had catching her scared cat, while the smoke grew thicker.
Nathan had run from me and hid too, frightened by the loud alarm and flashing strobe. (Hildi, as I have long suspected, has apparently gone almost entirely deaf in her old age and didn’t notice the alarm until her carrier was directly under it.)
At this point, I began to understand why so many folks had come out to the street wearing only their underwear.
Here’s what happened: a two-story restaurant that has been “under construction” for a very long time, just an alley’s-distance away from the high-rise where I live, caught fire yesterday morning. The fire burned from 4:30 to 6:15 a.m. and required over 100 firefighters to put out. While my building never caught fire, it suffered damage from the smoke and heat, including windows shattering up through the seventh floor.
No one was allowed back into my building yesterday without a fire department escort until evening, when our own fire alarm system was fully restored. The cats and I got back home about 9:30 last night, after a day spent waiting for news at the homes of two separate friends [many many thanks again, D and A! couldn’t have gotten through the day without you!!]. To my great relief, my own apartment was unaffected, other than a lingering smell reminiscent of a campfire.
Hildi was so pleased to be back home, she promptly yacked all over the sofa throw pillows.
I was so pleased, I promptly decided to buy all new cushions and threw the soiled ones in the trash without any attempt to clean.
And I actually was pleased, since all day I had been expecting her to vomit from the stress and her kidney disease while we were still at a friend’s house. [Hildi says: “you’re welcome, A!” She’d ask for appreciation from D too — but I have informed her that peeing on someone’s carpet loses you any gratitude points owed for not having puked on it instead.]
Here’s what my building looks like this morning:
And I’d show you the burned building too, except…
…it no longer exists.
I’d like to end with a little Wednesday morning gratitude:
I am grateful to the friends who helped and supported me yesterday,
to the people who took me in and fed me, to the many more who offered to take me in if I needed it,
to all of the love and well wishes I’ve received from friends new and old.
I am grateful that no one was seriously injured.
I am grateful to the Philadelphia fire department and emergency response teams.
And while I am grateful that my home and my things were spared, I am even more grateful for the reminder that things are just things — life is what matters. Life and love. Everything else is just icing.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m feeling a tad wobbly today from the delayed stress effect. I think I may soothe myself by baking a cake. If you’d like a slice, just grab a fork and swing by Philly!
You can’t miss my place — it’s the tall building missing all the windows.
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How about you? What does your midweek gratitude list include?