Surviving a devastating house fire
10 years ago I rebuilt my life from nothing – it was by choice. I left behind many things, but was able to take some treasured personal possessions.
10 years later, I am restarting my life again – building from nothing, but this time it is not by choice.
On the 12th September 2020 a fire started in the house next door to mine. It quickly spread to my house – thankfully all 12 residents from both houses escaped with no injuries.
Details of the fire can be found here – https://abc7ny.com/house-fire-in-dyker-heights-brooklyn-new-york-city/6420815/
The past couple of weeks since the fire have been a bit of a blur in some ways. I have been in “project manager” mode, dealing each day with a number of tasks, setting a priority list.
On that fateful night, I wasn’t able to get all three cats out of the house. Ophelia ran and hid when the firefighters entered the house (the boys were already in the cat stroller). I was ushered out of the house, and was absolutely terrified for Ophelia.
Right from the start of the fire, I had dear friends reaching out. Lisa and her relentless quest to try to get Ophelia by begging the firefighters. Alexandra and Paula brought food for the cats. Susan came to be my rock as I was in such a state at that time. Hugh who was just there for me. Then my friend Alexa who let me into her mothers house to go to the loo, and sit on their front porch as we watched my house in flames.
Thankfully a wonderful person (Anthony the “cat man”) met me at the house on Sunday morning as the the smoked and smell still filled the air, some parts still smoldering. I had been in the back area by the house calling out for Ophelia. Anthony took charge, and snuck into the house, and appeared minutes later with Ophelia. Priority number 1 task was complete!
I was exhausted, but was so relieved. I slept on and off the rest of that Sunday.
With the focus now not on Ophelia, I started on the next set of priorities – cancel TV, internet, utilities etc.,
During all of this the most wonderful of people were reaching out, a “Go-Fund-Me” was started by my dear friend Jenny ( https://www.gofundme.com/f/laura-gooner-howard-fire-relief-fund ). I cannot say thank you enough to everyone that has donated, to help me with the rebuilding of my life.
My dear friend Susan let me stay the first couple of nights at her apartment, her poor cat was banished to the bedroom.
Another dear friend reached out and offered me temporary accommodation. I am eternally grateful to Stu and Nicole.
Another friend lent me his car (thanks Scott!), so I was able to run errands, travel back and forth to Brooklyn (my temporary location was in Long Island).
Each day I checked off the tasks that were important, meeting with the renters insurance adjuster at the house. This was a day I will never forget. 5 days later and when I arrived at the house, you could still smell and taste the smoke / burned wood and stuff. I had to go into the house with the insurance adjuster – again surrounded by friends. We did manage to salvage a few personal items – to this day I still haven’t gone through those bags. Thankfully the insurance adjuster walked through the burned wreckage and agreed that they will pay out the maximum coverage. This money will be helpful to cover my costs as I move forward with a new apartment (security deposit, and 2 months rent up front).
My next task was to find somewhere to live – somewhere that would be suitable for the cats more than me. I searched for a couple of days – anyone that has done apartment searching in NYC will know that this is no small task. So much to look out for. I finally found 2 apartments that I thought would be suitable.
The first apartment I looked at was “ok” – but was a little older / tired looking. The second one was amazing – and that is where I am now living.
I spent about 6 hours back and forth with the realtor and landlord getting things moving.
I finally had my keys on the Monday. I had already loaded the car up with the salvaged items and I put them into the apartment. The next day my friend helped me move the rest of my stuff (mostly Chewy boxes!).
And here I was, back in Bay Ridge. It is a beautiful apartment, everything is brand new. And I do love it, but I shouldn’t have been looking for a place to live.
Purchasing items to completely start again is bittersweet – yes I know I am so fortunate to be able to do this, but I at the same time I have been feeling a little melancholy.
Enter the Colander
I have received so many gift cards, donations and such – I am eternally grateful for everything my friends and the community have done to help me get back on my feet.
I went to Bed, Bath and Beyond to do a bit of shopping for household items – you know the stuff – iron, ironing board, chopping board, glasses, COLANDER….
As I perused the colanders on offer, I stood there – picked one out – it wasn’t like my old one I had for 10 years… I fell to the ground and cried and cried… I was getting some strange looks – well it is only a colander!
But you just don’t know what will trigger your emotions in times like this. I kept saying to myself – it is just a colander, pull yourself together. But as I sat there on the floor of the store, it went through my mind – how many times in your life do you buy a damn colander!
I finally pulled myself together and continued to fill the shopping trolley.
Next up in my series of rebuilding my life, I will talk about gratitude and humility.