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I sit in the living room smoking the last of my Dutch Masters
cigars. As I rock back and forth in my chair, I read the latest
stock rates in the paper. It's 9:00pm here at my Redfield,
New York home. One of my daughters and her family had just
left a few hours ago from a two day visit. My wife, Barbara, paces
from the fridge to the sink then, to the stove as she prepares our
dinner. I could never think to imagine what would happen next.
Just as my wife sits down at the kitchen table, I feel a slight
shake from below. I didn't pay much attention to it, for it was
winter and snowmobiles had been going down the road all day.
A few seconds later a much longer and deeper rumble came. I looked at Barbara who was already staring at me for, I would guess, the same reason. That's when everything turned for worse.
A quick flash of light comes to my eyes. And in that split
second, I could see everything. I saw the floor boards lift up all
at once, the windows shatter, the bursting of bright flames, all
the appliances getting crushed by the collapsing roof, and my
wife get thrown under the same kitchen table she was just sitting
at. The only thing that made me come out of my stilled shock was
the feeling of searing pain.
I had failed to notice the marble topped table balanced on my
leg. I lifted the object off swiftly and carefully, as I knew my leg was broken. Then came the sting of the flames that kissed my skin. I then heard the one thing that still haunts me to this day; the muffled moaning of my wife. As I turned to look at her, a flash of
fear and sadness washed through me. I saw her trapped under
the table and being crush by falling ceiling boards. With the last,weak breath she had, she told me something that would make my
heart sink. She said, "Richard, don't let me burn."
There was no doubt in my mind I had to save her. It seemed,
however, impossible to do with a broken leg and a quickly
burning house. With all the strength I had, I started to crawl.
Falling debris hit the top of my head, burning what was left of
my thinned, gray hair. When I reached Barbara, I rapidly pulled
her out and told her to crawl.
We crawled the few feet, what seemed like miles, to the back
door. I struggled to lift Barbara up with my leg in the condition it
was in. I then put her in a nearby snow bank, far enough from the
house that the flames could not reach her. I limped steadily over
to my parked car. I guess someone was looking out for me that
day, as I must have forgotten to take the keys out of the ignition.
The truck turned on with a loud roar. I look out at the smoking
house to see one of the walls completely fall over. It was blocking my path now. There was no time to waste figuring out a different route out of here, so I drove over it. As I pressed the gas pedal,the pain in my leg was becoming more apparent. I couldn't let it stop me though. I had to just keep thinking of Barbara. Thinking of her gave me all the drive I could ever need.
I raced to Stella's diner, a place where everyone knew each others names. I quickly found someone I knew and told them
to call 911. I drove back to the house and found my wife yards
from where I left her. But she was still safe and alive, and that was all that mattered. She sat silently as she watched her lovely home burn to the ground.
When the fire department and ambulance finally arrived, both
Barbara and I were in serious pain and disbelief. I watched as they loaded her into the back of an ambulance. It was then my turn. I warned them to take precaution of my leg and pleaded that they do anything they could to help my wife. They seemed under-
standing enough. Just before they closed the back doors to the
ambulance, I lifted my head. Just to see if anything had survived
in the house that I built with my own two hands. But when I looked
up, I only saw ground. That's when I realized that there was
nothing left. And that's when I realized that it was truly gone.
~3 years later~
Sitting in the basement of my new house smoking a cigar, I
think of how so many things have changed. I always think about
the fire, but try not to bring it up for Barbara's sake. I still go to the place where my house once stood. Sometimes it's hard to
look at the remains while sometimes, I could stand there all day staring at it. Even though I went through the burning of my
house, the surgery needed for my leg, the horrible feelings I had
watching my wife try to heal; I am still grateful.
I am grateful that we got out alive. That my daughter and her
family weren't still there when it happened. For the caring family I
have. I'm grateful that I have found a new home. A home I can
make new memories in. Though I will be making new memories, I
will still remember and hold onto old ones that were made at my
other house. I will not try to erase what has happened from my
mind or act like it never occurred. I will not try to restart or create a new life for myself. I will only try to add on to the one I already have.