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Don't expect words of wisdom or earth shattering revelations, just my thoughts and observations about living in Ottawa, being a public servant and trying to live life every day to its fullest

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Friday the 13th: I received a simple e-mail from my neighbour "Your house is on fire". My response by e-mail was "you're shitting me, right?" After a few seconds for the shock to set in, I turned to my friend at the bar and said "My house is on fire! I have to go - NOW".

And so starts one of the most interesting, stressful and illuminating weeks of my life.

The taxi ride home was a blur, I freaked out and then tired to rationalize what happened. No one told me how big (or small) it was, the police called and only confirmed that yes, my house really was on fire. My first priority was Mao. I am sure I made quite the sight, running down my street towards the fire-fighters, in tears screaming "My cat! Have you found my cat?" He was found hiding in a closet.

My house was on fire. There was a small fire that started on the deck and it spread into my house, taking out far less than it could have - but leaving more mess than I ever imagined a small fire could leave behind. And also resulting in no power for my unit or the 13 other units in my suite of townhouses.

Things about fire:
  • No matter how much (or how little) the physical damage is; first seeing the remains of a fire is shocking and numbing. Staring at the mess and trying to figure out what it meant, what I was supposed to feel and knowing how lucky I was, that it could of been so much worse, completely over-whelmed me;
  • It takes a few days for the dust to settle, literally. On Friday everything smelled, and there was a fine coating of soot on everything. On Saturday the walls started to look dirty, as the soot settled. On Monday after the house was closed up for two days, everything was filthy. Nothing could be touched;
  • The soot is toxic and carcinogenic. While my first thought was to grab my tooth brush and moisturizer, these are actually products that have been, even if only for two hours, seeped in carcinogenic gasses. This goes double to all food products in my house, even in my fridge. Everything is being thrown out;
  • There is no point being angry - it was an accident, and there was nothing I could have done to change anything. And yet part of me is very angry;
  • That "rush" bag sent to the dry-cleaners for 48 hour service will never have everything that you will need for the next 2-3 weeks, and it will have some random stuff that you will wonder why you have it;
  • Flowers delivered to your hotel room from family really does make a difference.

I was very lucky - almost everything is salvageable and the clean-up should be done in a few weeks. But more than that, I am very lucky. I have been surrounded by incredible people who have let me stay in their spare room or offered their whole house. Friends have taken me out to do things and keep my occupied so that I don't go crazy in my hotel room, and whom have hugged me when I break down crying or the stupidest reasons.

There are three people who need to be acknowledged:
The friend who was at the bar with me when I found out about the fire came with me, and is also my Mao sitter; so she left the scene early to take the cat to somewhere safe. She also did laundry for me on Friday night so that I had a few pieces of clothing that didn't stink like toxic fire. Her and her husband have taken on Mao and regularly invite me over for meals and cat-visits. Another friend who has had a similar, if not far worse, experience also showed up unexpectedly and was a great help in helping me figure out what I needed to do. He also reminds me to laugh and find the up-side of things, but knows the empty feeling of not really having anywhere to go. And lastly, towards 8:30pm, yet another friend by to check on me, brought me food and drove me to my Mao-sitters place so that I would have somewhere to stay.

The last week has been illuminating, I have learned a lot about me, about insurance and about getting stuff done without freaking out about the things you cannot change. I am sure the following weeks will be less stressful, but that I will continue to learn.

Thank-you to everyone who has sent me kind words, who has been there for me and who continues to show me such compassion.