Three hours ago at approximately 3:15am Bronce and I were startled out of our slumber when our house shuddered fiercely. It was a strange thing and it literally shook us awake, causing momentary panic. We hopped out of bed and ran around looking for the cause… was it a tree that fell? Somewhere in my half-consciousness I recalled that the heat turned off at the same moment and wondered if the furnace broke. In our sleepiness we wandered around the house looking for the cause and noticed some neighbors standing in the street between our houses – wrapped in their robes, getting drenched in the rain.
We ran outside and asked them “Did you feel that?” They said yes without turning to face us and pointed. In the near distance we could see a house burning.
Now, I’ve been in the strange circumstance of watching a neighbor’s house burn down and it was a surreal thing. But this… THIS was something different entirely. The noise we heard was an explosion. And that house was not burning, it was engulfed. About half a mile away, sitting on top of a hill allowing for visibility, the house was pouring smoke and the fire was intense. I ran inside to call 911, thinking the whole time “Surely that fire’s been burning for a while… someone has already called” – and after being on hold (yes, on hold!) for a second they confirmed they’d already received the call and help was on its way.
The most frightening part of this whole situation didn’t occur to me until I got to bed later. As I was tossing and turning, fighting the images and the fear that wells up inside I began to hear the sirens come. And I realized – that house has not been burning for long – the flames and smoke we saw were fresh. As I write this I’m still not sure what happened, but the explosion started it.
The idea of my house exploding into that fury of heat and confusion gives me tremors. How do you walk away from that? I slept a fitful sleep, dreaming strange dreams about visiting the house and theorizing about what happened in that crazy way our brains work before dawn.
House fires are one of my all-time fears. But even when I dwell on that frightening situation I think the “what would I grab?” thoughts. Imagining I’d get my laptop, wedding album, Bible, and certainly my cat – surely I’d have enough time to get all those valuable things, right? But to think that this family may have been sleeping soundly – that there may have been children and babies resting their precious heads – and the house blew up. Just boom. My heart stops beating. My skin gets clammy. It makes me want to get in my car and fly to South Carolina to hold my niece. Grabbing those things precious to us has a new meaning.
[I just did a little reporting and found this article… Wow. Natural gas explosion blew the couple out of their bed and threw them in the street. Sheesh.]