Today, I feel human again.
That is a good thing because for the two days prior I felt like something less than human. A robot devoid of emotion, feeling, or any other brain activity. The inspectors finally finished and turned over the house to us. We started poking through the debris looking for any thing that might have survived. Tomorrow the cleanup begins in earnest and I am glad to have something to do, a goal to accomplish.
Lots of you have asked me for details about both the fire and things my family now needs. I'm going to start at the beginning and try to answer a few of those questions.
Sunday 7:30 ish in the morning -- I woke up due to an angry and complaining bladder. I shuffled off to the bathroom and at some point realized I smelled a plasticy hot aroma of the sort I normally detect when my wife leaves her curling iron on. I check the curling iron but it is turned off and cool to the touch. I also check the clothes iron in our bedroom but see that it is unplugged. I walk out of our room to the kitchen but no longer notice smell. Back in bed I wake Jennifer and ask her if she smells anything. She tells me no and asks if I checked the curling iron.
I lay back down and close my eyes but less than a minute later the smoke alarm at the opposite end of the house goes off. I rush back through the kitchen and down the hall only to see smoking seeping from above and below the door of my computer room. Jennifer is right behind me and when I push open the door smoke billows out and a flash of flame flares. I tell Jennifer to grab our dog, which is still inside the small kennel he sleeps in, and get out. Our boys had spent the night with my mom as they do lots of Saturday nights. And that is perhaps the biggest blessing in all of this as their bedroom was right next to the room where the fire broke out.
I grabbed a fire extinguisher from the kitchen and ran back to the room but when I pulled the pin and squeezed the trigger only a small poof of air and white foam came out and then nothing. It didn't even dent the growing flame. Jennifer ran to the neighbors and then came back to grab our other dog which was out back in her kennel which butted up to the backside of our house.
Meanwhile I made several trips in and out of our house in an idiotic attempt to save something. The first few trips in were not so bad but apparently my mind was already putty because I grabbed things like a giant Christmas platter and left my wallet which was right next to it. I grabbed my wife's contacts, but not her purse. A truck of the boys artwork and keepsakes, but not Jennifer's huge box of pictures and scrapbooking stuff. Much to the chagrin of my buddies it never occurred to me to grab my 50 inch high def big screen.
The last few trips were scary. The house was full of acrid black smoke and stuff was flying around and cracking and I failed to get so much as one thing before being forced out for a breath of air. When the windows blew out in very dramatic, action-movie style I gave up on going back in.
The timeline is fuzzy, but only a sort time later, my house lay in smoky ruins. The first firetruck did not arrive for nearly thirty minutes due to my remote location. By that time the house was completely engulfed.
I am told that neighbors have pics and when I get a chance I'll get copies and post a few.
The house and all of it's contents were a total loss, but I am proud to say it could have been worse.
As I said my boys were not home and did not have to taste the fear or experience the trauma of seeing the flames destroy every last thing they owned.
No one got hurt, expect the boys turtle named Captain Jack. We told the boys that we let him go in the nearby creek, but in reality Captain Jack went down with the ship.
The night before we'd gone to a friends to show them pictures from our trip so both our camera and my laptop were still in the back of Jennifer's car. I lost only a few very old snippets of my writing and truthfully they were probably not very good, and a few chapters of my most recent work which was on a flash drive.
I do have insurance. Not nearly enough to cover everything, but after all the expenses are paid there will be a bit left to start the rebuilding process. I never realized just how much crap we owned until we started trying to itemize. I have learned the importance of updating your insurance often though I must say it is the costliest lesson I've learned thus far in my life.
The fire inspectors are speculating maybe an electrical problem in the wall, but there was far too much damage for them to make more than a guess. For my own peace of mind I wish that we could know for certain but I guess in the grand scheme of things it doesn't really matter since knowing will not change anything.
And the best thing I've learned is that I have more friends that care about me and my family than I ever dreamed. I thank you for all of your well-wishes and offers of help. Accepting help has been hard even though I realize that we need it and there are some things you can not simply man up and get through.
As for what we need, I'm not exactly sure.
A very generous friend with a rent house is getting it prepared for us to move into sometime in the next week, until then we are staying with Jennifer's parents. We have had many offers of furniture and bedding and accessories but at this moment we have no place to put any of them. People have brought clothes for all of us. The boys especially now have a decent supply. The Red Cross was amazing as they showed up before the fire was even out and have provided some financial assistance as well as moral support.
The boys are coping, well though my youngest is starting to realize the impact. he had a minor meltdown over hot wheels tonight when his 2 year old cousin wanted to play with one. My son cried and said he only had five left and he didn't want any lost.
I am a bit worried about Jennifer. Every so often she seems to drift away and simply stare into space and my heart breaks that I can't give her the peace of mind she needs right now.
Lots of you have asked how you can help, so swallowing my pride I'm going to list the few things that come to mind concerning my boys.
Children's books. My boys are 6 and 8 and they both love to read and I know at some point they are going to feel the loss of their books.
Hot wheel cars for my youngest. They sell for about a buck and I imagine they would cost only a bit more than that to mail. I know it would bring a smile to his face to find one in the mailbox.
Also if any of you live in the Orlando area or are visiting Disneyworld soon I'd love to replace t- shirts they boys picked out while we were there. My oldest is a size 10 or I think a child's large and he had a shirt with Mickey Mouse's body that said I'm the big cheese. His younger brother wears a 6 or a small and his ad a picture of Mickey and Goofy dressed as pirates along with a treasure map and it said How to Be a Pirate. It is very silly I know, but they spent a week agonizing over what shirt to pick and then they were gone before they ever got to wear them at home. I would gladly repay anyone who can find those shirts for them.
And many thanks to both Erica Orloff and Stephen Parrish, who I believe are the kindly parties responsible for starting a blog and fundraiser on my family's behalf.
My mailing address is 522 Casino Amarillo, TX 79118 and it comes to a cluster box not the house so it doesn't matter that the house is gone. I will still receive mail addressed to there.
But I understand that he economy is tight and that many of you have hardships of your own, so prayers, kind thoughts, and well-wishes mean just as much. I truly am blessed to have so many wonderful friends, both here in Amarillo and scattered around the world. Thank you all. Just knowing there so many who care about me and my family has been a great relief.
I'll post again when I can.