Happy Feast of St. Michael to you!
I’ve been procrastinating about this story. It’s not an easy story to write. Brings back lots of vivid memories. But many people have asked us about our fire story. After our fire, we repeated the condensed version so many times we could do it sleeping.
For anyone on my Facebook page, you watched us as things developed from that day. But, much of our story we didn’t share even there. It takes time to process everything and in some ways you don’t even understand things until you get away from them and look back. Then hindsight helps you see them in a different light.
Some of you may be bored by my play by play. But I have heard from too many people how much our story has helped them. From large companies we talked to, to individuals and so I am compelled to share this story for those that will be helped by it. Today on St. Michael’s feast day, I dedicate this story to him, who I believe was watching over us this fateful day we were saved.
So here is the first installment of, our fire story.
In an instant, your life is changed, forever
by Rita Davidson
Summer is a fun time of year. A bit more relaxed (well at least for us we aren’t farmers) and so we like to take advantage of the drive-in, when a good, clean movie comes out. It’s always been an inexpensive way for us to make good memories and enjoy a night under the stars together. July 18th, 2013 was like any other night.
As always I like to post to my Facebook page. Sometimes I make it a little fun, and ask them to “Can you guess what are we watching?”
If you go to my Facebook page for July 18th, 2013 you’ll see a post there of the movie ‘Superman’. It was raining that night and there are some drops on our picture. Only later would we hear that that rain is what saved the fire from spreading.
We got home late since it’s a 40 minute drive and went straight to bed. It was a warm and steamy night so we had the over-head fans on too.
Morning came quickly since when you go to bed at 2am the night is much shorter. I woke up at 8am, on on July 19th 2013 and noticed a faint odor of smoke. I looked up at the fan and seen a faint haze and thought the fan was smoking, so nudged Mark to get up and check the fan.
In a split second, he woke up bolt upright and said, “FIRE”.
I’ll never forget how right he was, and how blessed we were that he discovered this emergency.
In my dream state I was like “what is he saying, did he just say FIRE?”
I roused myself and got up; stumbling towards the bedroom door, noticing it was a bit hazy where my head was.
As I stepped into the hallway it was a little foggy and I kept thinking, “I have to find out where this smoke is coming from”, as I made my way to the stairs. I could hear the boys getting up, as I passed their room. Mark was yelling at the boys, to “Get up, Get on the floor, there is a fire, we have to get out.”
It’s all a bit of a blur, we had no idea what was going on.
In my sleepy daze all I thought was I have to get downstairs and figure this out. On first try, I couldn’t go down. In my confusion, I didn’t understand why I couldn’t see or breathe, so I backed up (I did say I was sleepy).
So back up the stairs to make another run for it, and this time I yelled, “Someone get the baby!” which I had left sleeping on my bed, when I got up. (I still shudder to this day, to think if August, our oldest boy had not gone in to get Liam…)
Remember now, we had no idea what we were dealing with yet. There was some light white smoke in the air, like when you burn some toast or something. But there was enough to cover the stairway so you couldn’t see clearly or breathe, but we had no idea if this was just a fan smoking at this time. Later, a neighbor remarked she thought she smelled toast and felt guilty she didn’t do anything about it then. I told her not to even consider it. Later I now realize how much this whole event shattered our little community.
So I took a deep breathe and ran down the stairs, grabbed the phone right at the front door and out the door I went.
I can’t say how thankful we all were at the design of that house, to have our bedrooms together and right above the front stairs. It took all of 40 seconds to get out of that house once we got moving.
As I sat myself on the verandah, Mark and the boys were coming out the door. I looked at Mark and realized, “We don’t have Joseph,” I told him.
On top of all this uncertainty what we were dealing with, Fear grips your heart like you’ve never known before.
He said “wait, I think I know where to find him”. So, Mark found him in the backyard. Joseph is our non-verbal autistic boy and was in the habit of having a morning bath, so he was outside naked when Mark saw him. Only later, did Mark tell me he seen huge flames coming out that back of the house.
Mark knew if Joseph got scared in any way he would bolt and run, possibly back into the house. Thank God, he managed to get Joseph to come to him (which was not always easy) and brought him around to the front as I was talking to 911.
I told them we have a fire (still not knowing what it was yet I figured it was just better to get out of the house and let them find the burnt toast for us?!) Once we were sure 911 were coming we got off the verandah to get a better look at what was going on.
We backed up to the grass and then seen thick black smoke coming out above the business side of the house where Little Flowers Family Press was. My heart sank. When I say, thick black, it was thick black. Those words don’t do justice to just how thick and black it was billowing out.
All I could think was, what is going on in there? And we could hear crackling…
We backed up some more to the sidewalk (we were still only seeing smoke) and then one of our neighbors ran up asking if everyone was out? And did we call 911. We toyed with the idea of moving our van, then realized the keys they were in the house, so scrapped that idea. We didn’t want to be anywhere near the house anyhow, since we didn’t know if something was going to explode or what was going on yet.
The growing heat and the crackling inside we knew now there was fire. We kept having to back up to the grass, sidewalk, then across the road. The fire-trucks took what seemed like forever.
At first, I kept thinking, they will save half the house? Maybe they could save part of it? Oh when will they get here? As we watched the billowing black smoke coming out I heard the first of the windows explode. I think it was then I started to cry. It became surreal at that moment – this was really a fire. This was bigger than my mind could hold.
Standing on the side of the road, people started showing up, taking pictures, talking, pointing, we tried to stay out of the way so I sat down with the boys on the gravel. With Liam on my lap, we watched from a distance our house now flames coming out and our brains just went numb.
HOSES, WATER, FIRE, SMOKE
Finally one fireman arrived, behind him the first truck. It was only 12 minutes later, but oh those 12 minutes felt like a lifetime. Hoses, water, fire, smoke; it all was a blur. I don’t remember crying, but August said, it was when I collapsed on the side of the road that I started to cry. I remember it was all I could do to hold Liam close to me and thank God the boys were safe. Making sure the boys were safely off the road was all we were worried about. I think I was actually rocking too….Funny, writing this makes me want to rock back and forth again…
One neighbor brought a basket of clothes, another offered for us to go sit at their place, then another. At first, we didn’t want to move, riveted to the incredible scene which was unfolding before our eyes. How could we move from here?
As time went on and the sun was getting hotter, the fire growing and the wind picking up, we finally realized we should get the boys off the road, get some water and coffee. We felt increasingly watched by curious bystanders as we sat there in our bedclothes. We walked out with what we had on in bed, me a t-shirt and petticoat and not even shoes. We didn’t know it at the time, but that was all we would have left to our name.
Once we got to our neighbors, the boys broke down. It was so heartbreaking to see their pain, not knowing how to console them, not knowing what was going on up at our house. Will they save some of it? There is a part of you, (or me at least) that kept thinking, surely it won’t be destroyed, miraculously, they will save it and we’ll have a lot of clean up to do.
We were all so numb and people kept filing in, asking questions, bringing clothes, we just wanted to be left alone. But, it was good for us to have the company, since there was nothing we could do really but wait for the time to pass. It was only 2 hours later, by this time.
Red Cross came, and the Ambulance and the boys and us were all checked twice for smoke, thankfully we all checked out fine. The day was beautiful, with full bright sun and warmth, the irony of life.
By noon, the fire Chief came up to ask us some questions and tell us there was nothing they could save. Our worst fears realized. It was all gone.
The fire was so intense, it knocked out power to everyone in the town and the phones were knocked out too. I had no purse, or contacts, so all I could do was reach out and post this message on my Facebook page, to ask for prayers until we knew the extent of our damage.
Locals from a nearby campsite offered to bring us up for dinner and offered us a camper for the next day, so that was our plan for the next day.
In the afternoon, we had an altercation with one of our estranged daughters who was so distraught at hearing the news through friends. It only added salt in our already deep wounds, as she said, “Mom don’t you know your homeless now?”
After supper Mark and two of the boys walked over to see the ruins. I didn’t go as I stayed with the younger boys, but Mark said it was still smoking and bulldozers were digging to uncover the hot spots still. When he came back, he said the first thing he seen at the front of our property was a picture standing up like someone had placed it there, a saint he couldn’t remember. It was only later, I realized it was St. Maria Goretti….Patron of our “Martyrs of Purity Crusade.
My heart was consoled when he brought back a piece of a rosary and the head of Our Lady. He said, he was just poking around all the blackness and seen it sitting there.
We were thankful to have a place to stay and stayed our first night there. Mark was too afraid to sleep on the second floor so we all slept in one room together, on the floor. It was a fitful night.
I remember Liam falling asleep crying, “My Lego’s are all burnt.” This would become a common sentence for him for months to come.
Andrew, tears streaming down his face, saying, “Why would God do this to us?”. With his autism he cannot understanding the devastation that we all witnessed. He still cannot process it.
There is nothing more painful than to see your 17 year old son, curled up in a ball from the pain of it all.
Joseph, was not talking as is normal for him, but in time his constant tears and crying his words eventually showed us his pain, that he couldn’t describe, at losing his house too.
It was all like a bad dream, our hearts were broken beyond words and numb with disbelief, and I welcomed sleep.
This was the end of first day, July 19, 2013.
Watch for the rest of the story, in my upcoming book,
“Breadcrumbs from God, the story of God’s hope in tragedy.” Coming, late 2014, God willing!
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©Copyright 2014 Rita Davidson All Rights Reserved.
Rita is a Catholic wife, and mother of seven, with three autistic boys. Currently a writer, & published author, she is a former hairdresser, professional make up artist with a degree in Natural Health. She is now a Young Living Distributor. After overcoming a stroke, disabilities, and more, they recently lost everything in a devastating house fire that made them homeless for six months. She is determined to lead souls back to Christ by carrying their crosses with Joy!