One year ago today, I spend most of the day on the phone with the clinic trying to surmise a plan of action for Aidan's broken foot. I washed a few loads of laundry and left them on the kitchen counter to fold in the morning. We tucked our kids into bed, just like any other night. When our own heads hit the pillow a few hours later, Tim thought he smelled something strange.
I told him to ignore it... probably some college students grilling late at night on spring break.
Tim wasn't so sure and he went downstairs to see if he could figure out what it was. I have a hard time sequencing the next few moments- smoke detectors, Tim calling to me to wake up kids- who could I carry?, quickly finding my glasses and pulling on a pair of pants, carrying Kylee and Caleb down the stairs 20 weeks pregnant, dropping them in the grass with Aidan and going back for Kenna's things, handing Tim my phone and having to remind him to use it, hearing panic set in his voice when he had been so calm getting us all out a few moments earlier, my neighbor picking up the kids and carrying them into her house knowing I would follow, the police officer telling us we should move our truck out of the driveway if we had the keys (Tim did), the first sirens, a friend showing up after her ex-husband had called her when he saw the flames while walking the dog, our pastor and his wife coming sometime after that, slowly finding more and more room in our neighbor's house for the few things emergency workers were bringing over- shoes, Aidan's crutches, medications, our gecko.
The report says they responded to the fire at 10:13. That means most of that happened in under 10 minutes.
It felt like an eternity.
We watched in shock for almost three hours while firefighters put out the blaze that spread from the garage and into the attic of our home. I remember the Red Cross directing us to a hotel to spend the night, but first we needed shoes (Aidan didn't even have pants on) and our pastor and his wife went to Walmart at midnight with a list of sizes. Our boys wore jackets that the neighbor's daughter had outgrown. It didn't matter that they were purple, they were warm.
I remember the kids collapsing into bed and staying awake shaking for quite some time after that. I remember sitting on the toilet with the door to the bathroom closed to call my mom at 4:00 in the morning because I didn't want her to hear it from someone else first.
The next day was a blur of meetings with the Red Cross for emergency assistance with food and clothing, walking through the house with our insurance agent, and shopping. I think we hit Walmart, Shopko, Target, & the Salvation Army Thrift Store all in one day. Every time we needed something we had buy it. As news spread, the phone kept ringing. If you know me, then you know I almost never answer my cell phone but Tim's was lost in the fire so it was all we had. I think someone was on it continually all day. I think someone may have watched the kids at some point that day, but I honestly can't remember. Over the next two weeks more people watched the kids than I can count.
More people brought us food and clothing than I could ever adequately thank, although I have tried.
Not a day has gone by in the past 12 months that I have not remembered with gratitude the amazing friends and family who surrounded us with their love one year ago. Relationships were tested and, I believe, strengthened. When I serve dinner on the dishes from one friend, lay my children down to sleep on the mattresses from another, or even put on my own shoes... I remember.
I remember and I am grateful.