Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Thankful for Life
It was my worst nightmare.
As a reporter, I carry a pager -- yeah, I know it sounds old-fashioned -- but I carry what is known as the "Breaking News Network" pager. It beeps or buzzes as information is entered by a group of people who listen to police scanners.
The pager can come in handy when alerting reporters to a serious accident on a major highway, a fatal shooting or a wayward bear taking a stroll through the suburbs.
But this morning around 10:30 a.m. the pager showed me something I never wanted to see.
The pager displayed: "Teaneck > *Working Fire*> 537 Chestnut Pl > Fire is in the 1st floor of a private dwelling."
My mouth dropped. My heart raced. And I grabbed my camera and left the office as quickly as I could. I called my mom to alert her that there was a fire on our block.
I was hoping that she was home. But she was not.
I had a feeling that the pager was inaccurate and that the fire was actually at my house -- which is 53X Chestnut Place (not 537). When I arrived I saw the street was blocked off. I asked the police officer where the fire was located and he pointed in the direction toward my house.
I raced around the corner and my worse nightmare came true.
My house was on fire.
My twin brother -- who is mentally challenged -- was home alone. Was he OK?
I heard my neighbor yellilng to me, "Michael, Anthony is over here. He's OK."
But my cat of 13-years was also inside the house. Did she make it out? I was assured by firefighters that cats usually escape and run outside. Unfortunately, Freddi did not. She died from smoke inhalation. I watched as the firefighters carried her out in a comforter that she always slept on.
I couldn't hold the tears.
My house was filled with smoke and although the flames were contained to the kitchen area, the damage had been done.
I couldn't believe this was happening just a day before Thanksgiving.
The house was declared uninhabitable and it would probably take months to repair the damage. It seemed as though the already bad situation just kept getting worse. However, I quickly realized one thing -- everyone was safe.
My mom, my brother and I were all unharmed.
I'm thankful the firefighters responded quickly and possibly saved my brother, who was still standing inside the house filled with smoke when they arrived. There's no telling if my brother would have left the house.
The cause of the fire, which started in the kitchen, was not immediately determined by the fire department, but it appears accidental in nature.
I'm thankful for opportunity to see tomorrow.
And I'm thankful for all those who have texted, called or e-mailed me during this tough time.
I've covered a lot of fires, but being a victim of one is truly devastating.
I'm just thankful it wasn't worse.
I've been told this many times today: Things can be replaced, but people can't. For that, I am thankful.
Have a happy Thanksgiving everyone and be thankful for what you have today because it could all be gone tomorrow.
Peace and love.