It was Thursday, June 11, 2008. It began just like every morning. I got up and got ready to head to the gym. I ate some breakfast, downloaded some new tunes before my workout and kissed Mama goodbye. I never thought that would be the last time I’d ever step into that house I’d lived in almost 20 years of my life.
Go back in time a little when I noticed a strange looking mole on my mom’s back. I continually reminded her to get in checked out. I was so worried about it! Finally, she did and they decided to remove it June 10, 2008. Why would God let my Mama have something like this? I was scared. I love my Mama, I don’t want anything to happen to her. Well, everything happens for a reason. I say this because; if it wasn’t for that suspicious looking mole- Mama would have never been home that following day.
I have always had an, I guess you could call it “odd” obsession with the number 11, so every time I see 11:11 I HAVE to make a wish. I was on the elliptical trainer when I see it and make a wish. I don’t remember what I wished for that day, but ironically, I remember the song I was listening to when I made the wish. The song is called “Happy Times.” Every time I hear that song, I think of that day and that moment. I was SO happy that day. I was in a good mood for no reason. And I can specifically remember thinking how thankful I was for all that I had. It was an odd day. And it immediately went from an amazing one to a tragic one in a matter of hours.
It was the Thursday before Father’s Day and I wanted to get Daddy a gift before heading home. I tried calling my Mama after my workout to let her know I was heading to Glen Allen and just say hi. We call each other all the time. I didn’t get an answer, so I called the house phone. For some reason the call wouldn’t go through so I called my sister. Sarah answered and I told her to let Mama know what I was doing and she acted very strange. She asked if I wanted her to meet me to look for a gift for Daddy… Although her offer was very kind, her office is an hour away and it was in the middle of a workday. It just seemed odd to me. Either way, I headed to the tanning bed after to get ready for our vacation coming up. Upon arriving, I received a phone call from Stephanie. Stephanie and I go way back. She and I have been friends for years. She just so happens to live on the same road as me but we hadn’t talked in a while so I knew we had a lot to catch up on. I decided to wait to call her after I tanned so we could have time to chat. I am so glad I didn’t answer that call. Everything happens for a reason.
When I get out, I had several missed calls from my mom. I immediately called her back and she asked if I would meet her at Circuit City across the road from the tanning bed. What? Why on a Thursday afternoon, would Mama want to meet me an hour away from home to go to Circuit City?! Why is she and Sarah acting so weird? I told her okay and she called back and said, to meet her at the tanning bed. So I did. I’m sitting on the bench waiting to see her black Yukon drive up when I see Hope (a sweet lady from our church) pulling in with Mama and Loren (my cousin). Mama gets out the car and she is wearing a bathrobe, no makeup and her hair is in a bun on top of her head. Hope and Loren are hugging and crying. I immediately thought someone died. I was so confused. Mama sat down beside me and hugged me tight. She looked into my eyes and said with a cracking voice… Our house burned down. I burst into tears. I was filled with every emotion, every question, fear, anxiety, everything… I have never felt that way before. The first thing I asked was, Are you okay and where are the dogs?! We had 5 dogs at the time and Mama somehow managed to save ALL of them.
I know understand what Stephanie was calling me about.
I didn’t know what to do or what to think. Mama drove my car back since I was obviously very emotional. Hope and Loren drove me back home… well, our used to be home.
This may seem small, but I packed an extra snack that day. I normally wait until I get home to eat again but something told me that morning to pack it in addition to my lunch. Again, everything happens for a reason. I needed that snack later, as I wasn’t going home that day.
The ride back was a tough one. Apparently I was the last to know and they just couldn’t figure out how to tell me. This was probably around 3pm and the call went in around 11am. While making my wish at 11:11, and feeling so grateful and happy for everything in my life unknowing of the tragedy going on at home AT THE EXACT SAME TIME… I believe that is the Lord Jesus Christ. He was protecting my soul and building me up and preparing me for the news to come. Being surrounded by loved ones was the best way to hear news like that.
I asked Hope and Loren what my house was like. I asked them if just part of the house burned or all of it? I still don’t know if they really knew but I could tell by Hope’s expression, it wasn’t good.
(this is our home that burned, the way I will try to remember it)
(this is an image I found online after it happened)
We finally got to the road I lived on. There were police officers blocking the road with the cars. We rolled the window down and the officer told us the road was closed due to a major operation going on and that we wouldn’t be able to get through. I knew that was bad news. I leaned forward crying and told the officer it was my house and I wanted to come through. He radioed through to some others and they let us go. Those 2 miles down my road seemed like an eternity. We parked the car about a half-mile from my driveway behind some fire trucks. I have never seen that many fire trucks in my life. A close family friend of ours, Ronnie met us as we arrived. As we all walked together, I read the names of the units on the side of the trucks. Essex, Tappahannock, Spotsylvania, Ladysmith, Bowling Green, Frog Level, etc…
I am filled with a mix of emotions writing this. Pausing to take breaks so I can wipe the tears and smiling because I am so thankful for this experience.
I remember I have my little point and shoot camera in my purse and I begin documenting everything I see. I don’t know why or how…. I just did it. This was before I cared anything about photography so I still don’t understand the urge I had to photograph it all but I am glad I did so I am able to share it today.
We live on a hill. At the top of our driveway on the road, they were filling up a huge swimming pool with water. Apparently since our house was so far from the road and there was no source of water for the firefighters, all units in the surrounding areas responded. They emptied their tanker trucks into the pool so they could run a hose up our driveway to the house. Hearing all of the commotion and seeing all that was going on… I knew it was real. I mean, I knew it was real to begin with but I guess it didn’t “hit me” until I saw all of this.
Mama, Hope, Loren, Ronnie and I walked hand in hand down the driveway. I was so scared to look up. I didn’t know what to expect. When I did, I felt something I’ve never felt before. I don’t even know what you call that emotion… but I never want to feel it again. There stood our once, brick rancher. I could see through the front where the windows were straight through to trees in the backyard.
I was greeted with hundreds of loved ones. Literally hundreds of people were there. Family members, church members and friends… everyone was there. I didn’t know what to think or what to say. I sat on the ground in the yard and looked at it. There was nothing I could do. But I can tell you one thing… having those people there with us while we experienced that was so amazing. Everyone banded together to be with us. And THAT was a God thing.
I was wearing sweaty gym clothes and all I was left with was my purse. Mama had nothing, Daddy had nothing but what they were wearing. That evening, we went to my sister’s house next door to stay. I didn’t have any clothes so I borrowed my sisters.
Um, we are NOT the same size so that was quite a sight. She is ITTY BITTY and I am a curvy girl. I borrowed the shoes Mom was wearing… she wears a size 8 and I wear a 6. Needless to say, I looked like a HOT MESS! The insurance company gave us a couple hundred dollars to get necessities and food. Andrei and I went to Wal-Mart and bought toothbrushes, deodorant, food, shampoo, etc. When we got back we had visitors. It was so awesome having people surrounding us with love during this time.
That night was the hardest night of my life. I didn’t sleep for one second. I worried, pondered, contemplated and just thought for hours. I pieced everything together and realized that everything that happened that day happened for a reason.
That Sunday was Father’s Day. I am so thankful for my Daddy and all that he does and I felt so sad that day for everything that had happened. During the service our pastor announced that the church would be taking up a love offering for our family. I don’t remember the exact amount that was given but I know it was a lot. I have never felt so loved in my life. It wasn’t at all about the money. The money didn’t matter. But the fact that everyone did this and was so WILLING to lend a hand and help our family was so incredible. God is good and I am so thankful to be a part of such an amazing community.
The following weeks were filled with amazing acts of love from our family, friends and church members. They donated food, clothing, their time, their love and their hearts. I don’t know what I would’ve done without them. I really don’t. I can’t imagine going through that experience without knowing everything will be okay and God is there with me.
And thankfully, I was able to give my Dad a Father’s day present because I purchased one earlier on that Thursday. Again, everything happens for a reason.
Over the next few months, things were VERY hard. But there was a light at the end of the tunnel. The grieving process was interesting. It was similar to a death but different because I felt like somehow my childhood was gone. I don’t know why but I just felt so empty, like I would never heal.
As hard as it was to see our house in ruins, I was so scared for them to demolish it. That was my life, my childhood, I spent 20 years in that home. My mother and father built that house when they were married…. This is our home. Demolishing it was like tearing our memories away.
The worst part of this process was driving up one day after the demolition and seeing nothing. For me, that was worse than the ashes. I should have been excited but I wasn’t. Everything was gone! That was such a struggle for me. I remember just staring at it, crying. Reminiscing stages of my life. Thinking and wondering how I would ever move on.
Thankfully, I had a supportive church group and amazing family there to remind me, its just stuff. It’s just a brick building. You can build a new home. My memories aren’t gone and I will be able to make more memories in a new home. People move all the time and they are fine. It was just so tough for me for some reason.
They finally broke ground and I didn’t have to stare at that blank yard anymore. I began to see the light. Although it was a constant struggle with the insurance company, and planning our new home was frustrating, it was also very exciting.
(my pretty new room with GOLD of course)
I started to realize the truth. I started to see what was happening. And I started to feel God’s love like I never have before. THIS IS MY TESTIMONY! Everything does happen for a reason and even through incredibly tough times, he provides and he is there. I never want to experience anything like this again and I would never wish for anything like to this to happen to anyone else.
September 17, 2009, we moved into our beautiful new home… just in time for Christmas. Today is June 11th, so 4 years ago today at this very moment this was all happening.
I can’t tell you how many people have told me how much our house fire impacted their lives. Their lives! It is crazy what goes on in our lives but I am thankful to know I have a God that will be there for me no matter what. I am so much stronger through this. I am a better person. It was the worst thing I’ve ever had happen but I wouldn’t change it. I miss our other house every day. And far too often, I get confused about where I’ve put something when I remember it burned. I will never ever forget that day, those feelings or those emotions. But I can tell you one thing, everything… EVERYTHING happens for a reason.
*I apologize for any typos, please let me know if you find them. I was typing at lighting speed and crying at times so it was hard for me to see, lol.