I had very high hopes for 2015. I was sure that this was going to be my year. Until the early morning of January 12.
For almost 15 years since the birth of my first daughter, I have been a fairly light sleeper. I think it’s part of the contract you sign when you have kids. I, Leslie McBride, vow never to sleep soundly again for as long as I shall live. I awoke at about 12:23 am to a very strange smell. I am accustomed to strange smells even in the middle of the night. I sleep beside a 10 year old Chihuahua with no teeth whose breath smells like rotting meat on the best of days. I generally can count on one of 2 daughters to be in bed with me with their teen-night-breath, and the other bodily odors they have at this age. But this was different. Electrical smelling. Burnt smelling. I opened my eyes and immediately got out of bed. I had a fan going in my bedroom (for noise factor) and shut it off, smelling it just to be sure. I walked down the hallway towards the girls rooms, turning on the hall light, the smell getting stronger. I walked into my oldest daughter’s room and said “Hunnie, do you smell that?”. She said she did. So I walked halfway down my stairs towards the main level of the house and I could see the smoke filling up the main floor.. a cloud that was rising and a smell that was worsening. I thankfully had had the foresight to grab my cell phone and the home phone before getting out of bed, so I called 911 from my hone phone as I was standing on the stairs. I was told to drop everything get my kids and get out of the house NOW.
Panic struck with a vengeance. My girls. I started to yell to “get up now and come with me – we need to get out of the house”. Likely not the best approach but in that moment I was on autopilot. They leapt out of bed, each of them yelling they had a cat. Winnie and WooWoos were safe. Almost down the stairs and I realized I had forgotten that tiny, old Chihuahua that had been sleeping soundly in her bed a few seconds earlier. My oldest daughter was still near the top of the stairs so she ran back into my room and scooped up Poppy – we were on our way out the front door, no coats, the first shoes we could put on our feet, and we were in the car. At least we could keep warm in there since I foolishly didn’t want to wake any of the neigbours.
In my head I was thinking that it couldn’t be that bad, only one fire truck had shown up, and only 2 men had gone into the house. Within seconds 4 more trucks arrived, a police car and an ambulance were behind me, and my street was being roped off. The 2 men that had gone into the house had now run out, and 7 of them were standing on my porch, putting full masks on, and going into my little home with a hose. This had to be bad. And then the tears. And then the apologies. What if I had done something to start this? What if I hadn’t woken up? Just a few minutes longer and we maybe wouldn’t have gotten out before the whole house was filled with smoke. An interesting side note – my 3 fire alarms didn’t go off until 18 minutes after I called 911. They fire department came to check them after we were allowed back in the house later that week, and they tested ‘fine’. The Captain told me to change them immediately just to be safe. Please check your alarms. Better safe than sorry.
The mess, disruption, destruction and violation aside, a silver lining came out of all of this. This whole experience reminded me how short and unpredictable life is, and how there are so many good people in the world. Our dear friend “C” had posted about our fire on Facebook, and before she knew it, donations of clothes, toiletries, electronics and even gift cards started arriving at her work, at her home, and at her mom’s home. Anonymous donors who weren’t looking for recognition or thanks, but people who, whether they realized or not, were doing something extraordinary. They were restoring my faith in humankind. Something that given the rather unfortunate 2014 we’d had, I had completely lost along the way. And for that, I will always be a little thankful for our New Year’s disaster of 2015 and reminding me that there is still good left in the world.