"I see trees of green, red roses too, I see them bloom, for me and you, and I think to myself..."
I was going to write about the horror of seeing the people you love lose everything they have in a house fire. About their tears and pain and disbelief that their lives could change so drastically, literally in under an hour. But the theme, and what I'll instead tell you about, running through the past 2 days (it seems like a week...) is one of friendship and generosity. Of strangers appearing with offers to help and bringing food and clothes. Of the best of people coming out in a time of need.
I went from relaxing poolside, listening to Louis Armstrong rasping about wonders in the world, to receiving a call that my younger cousin's house was on fire. I won't go into too much detail about the negatives of the next few hours - hearing dull 'whoomp's as things exploded and collapsed inside, or the many times the firemen thought the flames were extinguished, only to have them ignite elsewhere in the house. What I will talk about, is the stellar performance of many of the firemen, who risked their lives trying to contain the blaze - every so often a wall or part of the ceiling would collapse and hoarse voices would yell each fireman's name to make sure no one was trapped inside or underneath. I will also tell you about the admiration I have for my little cousin, who recovered from her shock enough to be able to laugh at my dumb jokes about roasting marshmallows so as not to let the fire go to waste (I've always had an inappropriate sense of humour). And about her 23yr. old sister, who, newly married with an active toddler, opened her small, 1 bathroom apartment next door to her invalid grandmother, aunt and 4 dogs, her mother and sister and whatever waterlogged, smoke soaked clothing we managed to fish out of the house at 3 am. with no complaint at all. I can tell you about my cousin's friend, who stayed throughout the night and was on hand to fight the flare ups that the firemen were sure wouldn't happen, with a garden hose, crawling up a ladder (he's afraid of heights) to be able to soak the burning walls with water so it wouldn't spread further, and who refused to let my cousin and aunt near enough to be hurt if anything were to happen. Who didn't leave until 9pm last night, over 24hrs later.
I don't know what caused the fire, but I do know what it caused. It caused me to reevaluate the things that I attach so much importance to. It caused me to remember how much to value the things that cannot be replaced - family, friendship, good health and common human compassion, and to be grateful for 'small' things. It caused me to be a little less selfish with my emotions and my time and made me, hopefully, more available to those who need me. Because there are worse things in life than having people who need you.
"...what a wonderful world"...
(What a Wonderful World -Louis Armstrong)