As most of you that read here already know, on December 10th Collin and I lost our home in a fire. We were able to get the boys and the dog out but with the exception of a few personal items that we went back in and salvaged the next day, everything else was lost. It has been a very overwhelming four weeks and we've just scratched the surface of putting our lives back together; there is still so much to do. People have been amazing. Amazing. And for that we will be forever grateful, but there is still a lot of pain and sadness. I've been meaning to update this blog for weeks and thought I'd start with the story of that night.
December 9th was a typical Friday night on all accounts. Collin came home with the boys around 5:30 with one child awake and ready for dinner (Hutton) and one sleeping because he had not napped that afternoon (Keaton). After dinner and Keaton's catnap we turned on the tv to find a line-up of Christmas movies. I don't remember what the first one was, but the second was Yes, Virginia, which was followed by the Elf on the Shelf Movie. Keaton was so excited to see the Elf on the Shelf again (we had watched it the first time it viewed and that night was when Hanley, our elf, appeared for the first time) that it didn't even matter that our local station was having some sound issues; we stayed up to watch it anyway.
It was 9 pm when the movie ended so we gathered up the boys, put them in pj's and headed for our bedroom. It has become a routine for the four of us to lay in our bed, read a couple of books, say prayers, and then turn off the lights for the boys to go to sleep. Once they are out, we move the kids into their own bedroom, and Collin and I get up to do some housework or just watch some adult tv in peace. Sometimes, though, we fall asleep with them, not waking up until a few hours later. And other times we don't wake up at all. When we went to bed that night, we hadn't intended on falling asleep. There were still lights on in the house, the Christmas tree, which we had just decorated that day, was still lit, and I'm pretty sure the tv was still on.
Before climbing into bed, Hutton had walked over and almost completely shut our bedroom door, something we don't usually do because the cat likes to sleep on my legs at night, and pretty quickly after turning out the lights, we all four fell asleep. It must have been a long week because Collin and I were not only asleep but sleeping pretty soundly.
Because the door to our bedroom was shut, we did not smell any smoke or hear any unusual noises, but shortly after 1 am, we were jolted awake by the sound of violently screeching smoke alarms going off throughout our house. BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
Our alarms were wired so when one went off, the whole house was screaming at us. It sounded like a war zone.
Collin jumped out of bed, ran to the hallway and when he rounded the corner to the living room he saw a flicker of light and a large cloud of black smoke. He rushed back into the room and flipped on our bedroom light. It was at this moment that I really became coherent and realized what was going on.
He looked at me and yelled "It's that fucking Christmas tree! Wrap the kids in a blanket and get them out of the house!"
(Earlier that afternoon Collin had taken the day off to decorate our tree, which had been standing in our dining room for nearly two weeks with no lights or ornaments. He had come into my office while decorating and told me that he thought we needed to get new lights because ours were flickering. Because he saw a flash of light and the smoke was coming from that general area, he thought it was the tree. We'd realize later that it wasn't.)
People always ask if your house was on fire what would you grab? Photos, family heirlooms, mementos from vacations usually top the list. I can tell you in that split second the one and only thing each of us grabbed was a child.
Collin swooped his arms around our comforter wrapping Hutton as best he could in the blankets, I grabbed Keaton and we ran.
Thankfully our front door isn't far from our bedrooms. As I stood in our entry way for the few seconds it took Collin to kick Maia's dog bed out of the way and unbolt the door, I could see that the entire dining room, breakfast nook, and half of the living room were entirely filled with thick black smoke. I had no idea that the Christmas tree was still plugged in because I could only see a few feet in front of me.
As we ran out the door I yelled at the top of my lungs for Maia and just as I was exiting the house I felt her run past me and I knew she was out and safe.
Collin set Hutt on the ground and because there was a full moon that night the yard was illuminated and I could see the look of complete terror on his face.
Should I go to the Smith's? (our neighbors, not their real name) I asked him.
As Collin turned to go back into the house I yelled at him to grab my phone and then I threw one kid on each hip, Keaton on my left and Hutton on my right, and I took off.
It was only 4 degrees out that night and I was wearing a thin pair of pajama pants, a nursing tank, and socks, but I didn't even notice. Barely clothed and wearing no shoes I ran through our yard, over the driveway, and into the field between our houses. I am so thankful I did not fall and hurt one of the boys or the baby. Once through their yard and onto their driveway, I rounded their garage to go to the front door. I could see a light on in their house and I remember a huge rush of relief as I realized someone was home.
Setting the boys down on the stoop, I began pounding on their door; trying hard not to wake up their two little kids, but hoping someone would hear me. Our neighbor, John, (not his real name) yelled out at me
"Who is it?"
Hysterically and completely out of breath I yelled "Kate Kono"
"Who??" He told me later he thought someone was there to rob them.
"John, it's KATE!" I yelled back. "Our house is on fire!"
This has already gotten pretty long so I think I'll stop for today and finish the story this weekend.