Top Ten Surprising Things After a Fire

Almost three weeks ago, our house caught on fire. Before the fire, I had never given any thought to how I might feel if our home caught on fire. I assumed it would never happen. But it did, and we’ve experienced a surprising range of emotions and experiences. Here are a few things that have surprised us about the experience.

  1. I am so thankful. Once we found out that everyone, including the firefighters, were safe, I didn’t even care about our home or the relatively few belongings that we lost. God protected us from so much. I’m so glad the situation is totally under His control–from the first spark to the small details of rebuilding our house.
  2. I was so thirsty. Maybe it was exposure to smoke, shock, or that I just hadn’t drank enough water the day before the fire, but I couldn’t stop downing water for the next day or two. When our insurance agent brought us a bag of food and toiletries, the first thing I went for was the bottled water.
  3. Smoke smells are everywhere. When I walked out of our neighbors’ house the night of the fire, I thought, “Wow, it smells like someone is grilling.” Then I realized that it was the smell of my house burning. Since then, we’ve smelled smoke everywhere. Sometimes it was in our hair or on our clothes, but it’s also from the projector in my classroom getting hot or walking past a restaurant.
  4. Fishing out damaged items was surprisingly unemotional. I imagine this would have been different if more of our things had been damaged. However, cataloging the damaged-beyond-repair items took a lot of time and felt more like business than a personal experience.
  5. I was exhausted, but could somehow keep going. We got about 2 hours of sleep, broken up into segments by our dog throwing up and me having to run into school, the night of the fire. Somehow, we made calls, wash and folded all of our clothes, talked to friends, and rode to Des Moines the next day. We spent the day packing and inventorying our things on Monday, and we were back at work on Tuesday. The adrenaline wore off that first day of work.
  6. Everything sparks memories of the fire. We now know exactly where the fire extinguisher aisle is at Target. I was at a conference today and had to answer a question about what had effected my life lately.
  7. We have too much stuff. I first realized this during our marathon clothes washing session the day after the fire. I really thought I might die if I folded another piece of clothing. After we sorted through our clothes at the hotel, we got a decent-sized pile ready to take to Goodwill. When your house catches on fire and you feel like you have too much stuff, you are blessed.
  8. We know a lot of awesome people. We had so many people leave comments on facebook, send emails, and even leave comments on this blog that I didn’t respond to. If that was you, thank you! Your words meant a lot to us. Our exhaustion and not knowing exactly how to deal with we felt about the fire kept us away from social media except to communicate that things were okay.
  9. Eating out eventually becomes a chore. Before the fire, I would have told you that I would LOVE to eat out every day for the next month. However, just deciding where to eat seems like more of a hassle than cooking and cleaning up after dinner. Restaurants are also not full of choices if you’re narrowing things down to what’s vegetarian or even relatively cruelty-free.
  10. We are not alone. So many people we’ve talked to know someone who has had a fire. There have been three other fires in our community since August. One was fatal, one destroyed an entire apartment building and more, and one was just down the street from us.

Perhaps the most surprising thing of all is that not only do we feel thankful for everyone’s safety, thankfulness has been the pervasive feeling throughout the past few weeks. I’m thankful for the firefighters who came and saved our home, the Red Cross who took care of us and our neighbors, and the good friends who watched our dogs and offered us a room in our house for the night and indefinitely. I’m thankful for parents who came ready to do whatever needed to be done–from hugs, to taking us out to eat, and to helping us empty our house if need be. I’m thankful for my husband–for being able to hug him and hold his hand when we couldn’t go home. I’m thankful for a lot more people who have listened to us, and offered to help.

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