A year ago today, our house caught fire during the night while we were all asleep. We are an extended family, so it was Grandma who sounded the alarm at around 5am. She thought she heard an intruder and called us on her cell phone from the other end of the house. What she actually heard was pictures crashing off the walls and cans exploding in a room that had reached eight hundred degrees.
My husband soon realized that we couldn't reach her because of the heat and the thick black smoke that filled the main part of our house. We phoned for help and ran to get the children out, which was hard because we knew that Grandma was trapped, and couldn't walk. Within minutes, four firetrucks arrived, and began fighting the blaze. A red ball of fire - a flash over - belched out of our kitchen just after the firefighters went in.
They say suffering is good for writers - but this experience I could have done without! After the blaze was out, we came back to scenes like these:
The whole experience was a bit of a close call, as you can see. It has left us with a lot less furniture, a blackened wedding album, and a fanatical interest in smoke alarms (the batteries were out in ours). But it's true when they say that any experience that doesn't kill you can make you stronger. I can honestly say that while I was watching my house burn, my work-in-progress was the last thing on my mind, but I'm sure that one day this event while find its way into my books in various shapes and disguises. Looking back all that matters is that we got everyone out, and lived to tell the tale.
Now go check your smoke alarms!