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Overwhelmed

Overwhelmed, not by the situation that we’ve had to deal with the last couple of days but by the outpouring of kindness, concern, love, and gifts that many of our friends near and far have exhibited through this small glitch in our lives. We have had many emails, facebook comments, phone calls, and much support from our church families at Harvest, theater friends from Heartland and Lifehouse, homeschool families, my old friends from PaperKuts Magazine, neighbors, and many photographer friends all over the nation– some I’ve never even met in person. We’ve received gift cards, canned food, clothing, books, stuffed animals, household necessities, and woo hoo! Chocolate! We are overwhelmed by the generosity of everyone and we are so greateful for the prayers that are lifted up for us. THANK YOU! We know that it’s what has held us up.

Although many have seen some of the following images on Facebook, there are those who haven’t and wanted to know the details of how it all happened so I thought I’d share it here on my blog. Although I am a photo-documentarist who captures “Life as it Happens”, the thought of taking pictures of my own home engulfed in flames wasn’t something I wanted to do as I’ll elaborate more on later, but if our experience helps one person then this did not happen in vain. My desire in sharing this is so that others may learn something from our experience but most of all that I may share God’s goodness with my blog friends. Thank you in advance for your patience because this may be just a wee bit long. Ha!

It started out on Christmas morning. From 9 am to 6 pm we were without electricity. We spent time just enjoying each other’s company along with my sis-in-law Ann, playing games, snacking, just hanging. Finally at around 6 pm the electricity came on and there was light! Around 7 pm Matt who had a cold said he smelled something burning. We checked around and unable to detect the exact source, I chalked it up to either the heater just having kicked in or the flue to the fireplace not having been opened properly. After a little while we just resumed our mindless activities and after Ann left, the four of us went into my office and watched Kitchen Nightmares via Hulu on the computer. At around 10pm the burning smell seemed to have returned but this time the odor was stronger than ever and it seemed to be coming from a vent above. I alerted Matt and told him that we better really check around, all the while thinking it was probably nothing serious. He replied saying that he’d better go to work to get a ladder, but before he did he wanted to glance at the attic first. The kids told me last night that one of them asked if we should all go with Matt to the office and I said no, someone has to be here in case there’s a fire. Oh the dumb things we say… I don’t even remember saying that, yes, convenient of me.

Shining a flashlight into the attic he saw a little bit of smoke and told me that I better call 911. Standing in the hallway I thought, why am I going to call 911? There’s no emergency, there’s no flames, I feel silly! Why don’t I just call the fire station directly? Where’s the phone book? Wait, I threw all the phonebooks away, Oh I better just call 911 and make it easier on myself. The 911 operator did exactly what she’s trained to do. After I calmly explained to her the situation, that I didn’t think it was really a big deal, she told me basically “Get everyone out NOW”. She said it with such a matterfact tone that I didn’t resist and simply relayed the message to my family. Calm, collected, but swiftly moving (thinking all along this is just a precaution) we began to prepare to walk out the front door. The girls got the animals (Mozart and Mango) as I quickly scanned my office desk to make sure that I didn’t have any external drives out and that they were safe in my fireproof file cabinet. I toyed with the idea of going back upstairs to change to more weather appropriate clothing but something told me to just get out. In less than one minute we all met at the front door and as we were about to go out Matt said he was going to get my camera roller bag. I remember saying no, don’t worry about it, I’m insured– again not thinking there was anything really wrong. He was already half way by the time I got all my words out so he continued. Now I’m glad that he did because I have 2 weddings this month and it would not have been easy to replace all that equipment in a short time. Thanks Hon! 

Outside we got into Matt’s truck and parked across the street. Kayla and I stayed in the car because it was cold and we didn’t have jackets on. I’m thinking this whole time that firemen will come in, check the attic and inform us that there may be a possible problem that needs attending to in the morning and be on their way. Then I see Krista walk towards us in the truck and proceeds to relay a message from her dad to get out of the car, the house is on fire, take pictures for the blog. As I’m getting out I’m thinking whaaaaat? The house is on fire? It can’t be, and why would I want to take pictures of my house burning to blog? Matt doesn’t even read my blog! 

Seeing the house on fire was very surreal, I struggled with taking pictures of my own house burning and only began the process of documenting when the fire trucks were in sight. So for those who’ve commented that I’m the only person who would think of taking pictures at a time like this, there you have it, truth be known, Matt made me, haha.

While waiting for the firemen to arrive I remember thinking, why are those firemen taking so long? They aren’t that far away! Come on already! Of course because I’m the one being affected, I felt at that time that they didn’t get there fast enough. You see, the reality of my house burning to the ground became very real at this point and I knew that our personal pictures would be the first to go being that they were on a counter right below the attic area. I truly didn’t care about any other belongings except for my children’s pictures.  While the flames were roaring I prayed to God saying that I knew that no doubt, it would take a miracle for our personal pictures to survive, please let them be okay. Honestly, I was thinking, yeah, slim chance, where are those firemen? Yes, I too have moments of weakness, LOL. 

About 7-10 minutes after we had walked outside, the flames went up through the roof. It was another 3-5 minutes before we saw the fire trucks arrive. We are very fortunate that we got out when we did.

Later when Matt spoke to the Fire Chief he asked if we had smoke detectors in our attic and Matt was like what? Never heard of needing to have a fire detector in the attic! The Chief then explained that that’s the way many casualties take place because the smoke detectors do not sound off until the rafters are fully engulfed in flames and the ceiling collapses. I shudder to think of what could have been had we all already been sleeping at the time the fire broke out because again, the fire alarms did not begin to sound off until several minutes after we were already outside and the house was full of smoke (contrary to what the newspaper reported).

According to a friend there were 6 fire trucks, a couple of paramedics, and police cars. In the midst of all the commotion Krista turns to her dad and says, “We have the best Christmas lights on the block now!”. You see, prior to the fire trucks we seemed to have been the only house on our block with zero Christmas lights. 

Here are some of the images…

Fireman walking out with my personal photo albums, Woo Hoo! Thank You!

iMac saved but later was told that electronics had to be replaced, otherwise we'd be taking the risk of failure at a later time.

Our neighbors Ann and Dave, Kat, Hope and Cheryl, our friends.

Morning after rubble

Girls surveying the damage

Right above the stairs is where most of the action took place. On the left side is a counter where my personal pictures were stacked up as well as inside the above cabinet...

This staircase (besides our bedroom windows), is our only exit from upstairs. Had we been sleeping we might not have been able to use the stairs as a way of escape.

Note the cabinet door left open where the fireman retrieved my boxes of pictures


Master bedroom

above the bathroom area

 

This is one Christmas we will never forget, a day when we were given a MIRACLE and an awesome GIFT. The gift is Christ being born– my family’s lives, saved. The miracle of hope through Jesus Christ, my personal pictures miraculously surviving the fire. Only two items were charred. The above picture shows the one and only album page and the box that held my wedding album. 

God is awesome! Many people are in wonderment how this fire has had little affect on us thus far. Please hear me when I say it is NOT us but it is He, Jesus who lives in us. We cannot take credit, it is His strength and His alone that’s holding us up at a time where we can feel really devastated. I don’t even fully understand why there’s such a hapiness in my heart these last couple of days– people are sad for us, thank you for your compassion but we are rejoicing! Don’t get me wrong, I know that there’s much work ahead of us, months to be exact with huge projects we didn’t sign up for but so what? The most important thing I have on this earth outside of my God is my family, and we’re in tact! The Bible says that God gives us peace that is beyond our human understanding, His peace we have really felt these last couple of days more than ever before. He also says that He gives us only what we can handle and that He’ll give us strength in time of need, thank God for that! 

Many have asked how they can help us. Please keep praying for us, Matt has bronchitis right now and needs healing. For Kat n’ Kay, that their trust in God would become even more real in the days ahead. Most important of all, please pray that our testimony will be in keeping with God’s perfect plan and purpose for our lives as a family and individually. THANK YOU!

Just a couple more things… Please, please, please, I urge you to put smoke detectors in your attics, it could save lives someday. Cherish your loved ones and let them know how much you care about them on a daily basis because one minute all seems okay and the next minute all could be lost. I hope and pray that you personally know God’s peace and have your hope in Christ, if not I’d love the opportunity to share with you, give me a call or email me.

May the Lord bless you and keep you, may the Lord let His face shine upon you and be gracious to you, may the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace!

p.s. We have been informed that the fire was electrical, started by the whole house fan but they are uncertain how it began. Currently under investigation, they think that the electricity being off all day may have something to do with the fire starting. Will keep you posted!