A Home in Me

January 11, 2009
By Paige Lechner, Louisville, KY

Wait. Rewind. Didn’t he just tell me that everything was fine?
I fixed my eyes on what appeared to be lights; flashing red lights, hidden behind a thick haze of bluish smog. Once our car was enveloped with smoke, my vision wasn’t the only thing that blurred. My thoughts swarmed around my head.
“What happened?!” I demanded. “Daddy! WHAT HAPPENED?!”
“Shh, Sweetie, everything’s fine,” my dad responded to my panic stricken questions through watering eyes. “I want you to stay calm. Don’t panic.” He turned the car down our street. “Take some deep breaths, and stay in the car until I tell you to come out,” he grabbed my hand. Yeah, that’s what he said. This definitely isn’t fine. Our house is on fire! Oh. My. Gosh. I unbuckled my seatbelt and pulled the door handle, which forced my dad to slam on the brakes.

“WHERE ARE THEY?! WHERE ARE THEY?!” I wailed in a sudden panic as my father tried but failed to keep me in the car. “They” were my family, and “They” happened to be all I cared about at the time. There is no doubt that, if I had not seen them, I would have dashed into the blazing house in a heroic effort to save their lives. Relief is something that most experience in their life, but I don’t even that can describe the emotions that overwhelmed me as I embraced my beloved family. They were okay. Thank God they were okay.
I was technically considered homeless, for my house was burned to a completely unsalvageable state. Although “homeless” described my physical situation, I didn’t feel homeless. To me a home isn’t a place where brick and mortar lie; it’s where the soul is entwined with the deepest amount of love fathomable. My home is with those whom I call my own; my family.

As I think back now, I remember running over to my family. “Dawn! Dawn! Are you okay?” I asked my step mother as she was on a stretcher being loaded into an ambulance.
“Yeah, Sweetie, I’ll be okay. I just hurt my foot but I’ll see you tonight okay?” Her attempt at comforting was flawed. I would later find out that she had broken five bones across her right foot and crushed her left ankle. These injuries were due to her jumping out of the second story window with my dog. She went on to have five more surgeries. But thankfully her injuries were not life threatening.
The night of the fire, we stayed at my grandma’s house where we would be residing for the next couple of weeks. My dad carried in my step mom, Dawn, and we sat as a family to discuss what would happen next. “So what made it happen? Is Sierra okay? Where’s Sasha?” Questions flew out of my mouth the moment we were all sitting down. I asked about my dog who survived the jump with my step mom and my cat who didn’t escape at all. A candle? A tiny candle did all this? And my kitty?
I imagined my parents expected me to be a little disappointed at the destruction of my every belonging, but never once did I utter a word of complaint. Toys did not matter to me that night, or the following months. What mattered to me was right in front of me, with the exception of Sasha and I continued to be struck with awe and sadness that most of us managed to escape. Our home was still there in my grandmother’s house that very night.

The aftermath was frightening, especially for a young girl at the age of ten. I remember taking a tour of my demolished house; all that remained was the shell and frame, windowless windows, and charred brick. With each step I took the ankle deep soot and ash produced clouds of thick dust that produced a rasping cough. I saw the phone that my step mom used to call 911; it was still sitting on the window sill where she left it. As my dad tried to pick it up, we discovered that it had been melted to the place it laid last. That was an image that melted into my brain.

Not much could be salvaged, which was somewhat disheartening to a ten year old. All of my clothing smelled of burnt soot, and the furniture was eaten by the fire. My dad went on one last search through the charred remains in search for my most valued possession. He found my baby blanket buried under my bed, or rather what was left of my bed, and soon after, our house would be reduced to rubble, and we would start from ground zero.

“We had each other and that’s all that mattered,” my father adds now, seven years after the fire. “I cried that day, not because our house was gone, but because I was so thankful that my family was okay. You all are what I live for, and without you, my home would not exist.” Those unforgettable words went straight to my heart and made me understand the depth of the love that is tied to a family.
The following months after the house fire, my clothes were replaced, along with toys, and I received an enormous amount of donations from people at my school. Our house was rebuilt in the same location seven months later. Regaining possessions was easy, and the least of any of my worries.

However, in less than a year I will be departing my house once again, but this time by choice. I will be seeking higher education and eventually I know I will get married and have a house of my own. But my home will stay with me, as it did through the destruction and the rebuilding. My home never left my side, and it never will. My home might expand, but never will it shrink. My home is in me always, in my blood; my family.

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This article has 3 comments.

on Jan. 28 2009 at 1:10 am
A beautiful way to remember a tragedy by looking at the positive aspects of life. It was written by someone who has a very big and mature heart for all of her family. Very moving!

dayee said...
on Jan. 26 2009 at 1:50 pm
What a wonder piece of writing by a wonderful child....my child. The words brought back a rush of emotion reliving the experience thru my daughter's eyes. Great job Paige...I love you. Daddy

wrcaple3 said...
on Jan. 26 2009 at 1:21 pm
This is written with so much feeling and passion! This is a wonderful story that could easily be extended into a longer memoir. I loved it!


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