Our Housefire

"How do we sleep while our beds are burning?
How can we dance when our earth is turning?"
Our bedroom.

Our lives changed forever on the evening of 17 February, 2011. We were coming home from dinner when firetruck after firetruck shot by and Walnut St was closed off. The haze I'd seen in the distance was too close. We picked up speed until I was running with my heart in my throat. "No, no, not our home...no, the kittens, the kittens are inside." I froze and Bee caught up, dropping our bags onto the pavement. He took me into his arms and said, "Shh...we don't know anything yet. Our neighbors were just at the store - this had to have happened quickly - they're putting it out. Don't jump to conclusions yet." I clung to his words, leaned against his body to keep from collapsing. I saw water from the high-powered hose shooting up into the night sky from where the roof should be. Large astronautical-like shapes, those of heavily geared firefighters, strode in front of windows where glass and curtains used to be. The beams of their many flashlights shooting this way, that way, making me dizzy.

It may have been quick, but it wasn't small.

We were taken to a Red Cross Shelter set up across the street at a home for the elderly. An old woman in a wheelchair brought me bottled water. It was cold.

I stared, blinked, and tears without sobs splashed down from my eyes.

The baby in me...I had to stay calm...but I struggle with panic/anxiety and my impulse was to fly out into the night and tear into the building for my kittens. So I check out of my head.

This is just how it is, I told myself. Nothing you do will help or make things different right now, so just let them happen. You were too late.

Firefighters and rescue workers started coming in with cats in carriers, covered in soot, but alive.

Living room.

One by one the boxes found their families and were piled at their feet. "Don't worry, the firefighters rescued cats and trapped them in the stairwell," I was reassured.

But no kittens were put at my feet. I was the only one without their pets - but I was the only one with pets living on the floor with the fire, and the fire was particularly bad around our unit.

One firefighter sat down with us, asked a bunch of questions, then returned to look for Lily and Fog; a special trip, just for me. He had sad eyes when he told me he couldn't find them, but told me they often hide.

We gathered our bags again and went to spend the night at our pastor's home.

The following days were the hardest time of my life. I was entering my third trimester and we'd lost everything. We were living everyone's worst nightmare, and it was far worse than I could have ever imagined.

On the morning after the fire they let us go up to see the damage and retrieve medication and search for our wedding rings. Nothing could have prepared me for the extent of the damage. The soles of my boots sunk into the carpet-pond. I could see the sky. My breathing became thick with ash. I was in shock. It was too much to process. I dug in my drawer and found the precious jewelry. I looked in my closet for my other pairs of boots, but the plastic hangers had turned to liquid and splashed molten flower blossoms all over everything then hardened again. Pink, purple, white, teal - I guess wire hangers have some advantage to plastic. Either way, it didn't matter. The fire had entered our apartment after the door had been kicked in. I looked in the sealed bins I kept further back in the closet. Top one - ruined. Bottom one - hope. I pulled a few purses out. That seemed so silly, but if all I could walk out with was a sack full of charred make-up and smelly Betsey Johnson handbags I was prepared to do it.

"Lily! Fog!" I called in a shaking voice the whole time I was in there. I'd expected to just bounce into the bedroom and find them in their secret hiding spot: the boxspring. What I hadn't expected was that the lovely handmade bed by my father was melted and charred. Two feet of debris from the attic laid on top of the once pretty bedcovers and on the floor. Odd things I'd never seen before like witchy Halloween decorations cackled up at me - gholish grins glared up at me. Did I own those things? where did they come from? a ruffled blouse hung from a hanger on a beam above our bed. The attic had rained on us - where had the attic come from?

I was so confused.

We left, lost.

Greg found us, fed us soup and bread. He and his family would let us stay with them while we figured out our new life. I still couldn't speak. I wanted my kittens. I wanted to go home. I wanted fresh clothes, soft hair, and my daily routine of make-up put on. None of that was possible.

That was the beginning of life after the fire (AF). There will always be that marker in our lives. BF/AF.

Tonight marks one month exactly.

I now know that it was arson: someone did this on purpose, and that someone was the man who lived in the apartment behind ours. He was loud and mentally disturbed. He'd bothered the people in the apartment below his. They had a dispute in our hallway. Ten minutes later there was a raging fire - he'd poured excellerant down the hall, kicked in our bedroom door, then walked to the front of our floor and poured more in front of our front door and the couple across the hall. Then he lit it all up and returned to his unit. The fire got into the attic and tore through all the debris. It rained down into our kitchen, our bedroom. The couple across the hall smelled smoke but had no way out other than climbing out the fourth story window. They clung to the bricks.

Our pretty kitchen before -

and after.

If Bee and I had been home I doubt we would have survived considering how fast it happened and how much worse it was on our side.

This is why I can't entertain the idea of the kittens escaping - they had nowhere to go. Surrounded by fire, heat, and lack of oxygen.

Walking away forever. Front door directly behind me, a hall closet to the left.

That morning I'd woken up with them piled on top of me as usual. I'd hopped up, gotten ready for the beautiful day outside, and called out, "Goodbye, kittens!" just as I always did.

My heart hurts and yet it's numb.

One month later we count our many blessings. We thank God for our lives, for our unborn child who is healthy and kicking up a storm. We thank God for blessing us with a community of people who care - from church, work, long-distance, family, and even strangers who have heard our story via the internet. They've carried us through the darkest days and we're coming out of this bright and strong. We were given a beautiful wedding; and me a shower. They gave me the happiest day of my life - a fairy tale wedding - far more than I'd ever dreamed of, especially as I picked the first dress I'd chosen from the soggy ashes and dropped it back to the ground.

One month later I still can't find words to express how thankful my heart is - how deeply touched and moved I am by those around me, those far away.

You have helped give us a new beginning...a fresh start. You have given me life again, a smile, laughter.

Thank you.
Each of you.

I will never forget a single ray of kindess that you gave to light our paths <3

The kittens were found six weeks after the fire when interior demolition began, but died during the fire. They had squeezed under the couch in the livingroom. They were together.

I only remained pregnant for two weeks after writing this. On 26 March I gave birth to a preemie at 30 weeks gestation and spent 58 days with him in NICU.

We are doing all right but still rebuilding. Tristan is healthy and caught up to his actual age.

Here is a link to the entry I made right after the fire.

By the time helicopters arrived the blaze was mostly under control.

It all happened in about 20 minutes.

Though an arrest was made there was not enough evidence left to convict.


  1. So sad about the kittens :( I'm so sorry you went through this. I know several people whose homes burned down.

  2. You are incredible. And you have survived and grown in the midst of this tragedy. You should be so proud of yourself. Your creations are incredible and gorgeous. You are amazing. ♡

  3. I'm blown away that there wasn't enough evidence to make an arrest and torned for the lose your kittens and your home. 🙏 I'm reading all your blogs and can't wrap my mind on all you've endured. My goodness...💔


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