People love to muse about the things you would save if your house was on fire. You would obviously make sure your family and pets were out safe. The Association of British Insurers surveyed people to see the top two things they would save besides loved ones and pets. The top 5 answers were:
Credit cards and money - 43% Photographs - 35% Mobile phone - 33% Laptop/ tablet - 30% Jewellery, artworks or other valuables - 16% (source ABI) Not surprising answers by any means. Credit cards and money are the logical choice, photographs are irreplaceable and most of our information lives on our phones and electronics now. The funny thing is, your brain when you have time to think about it and your brain when you're actually in the situation are two different brains. December 7, 2018 we had just returned home from a gig my husband, Phil, was playing. We had just changed into our pyjamas and were about to brush our teeth when we heard forceful banging on our front door. Now we live in a downtown apartment, and with living in any downtown core come.. questionable characters. My first thought was "this is it.. a crazy person is finally trying to break in". My heart was pounding in my chest and Phil grabbed the trusty baseball bat. Our dog at the time was barking like crazy from the banging on the door. The man on the other side of the door was desperately yelling our neighbours name and now trying to kick our door in. After what seemed like forever of banging and yelling we heard him yell fire. Just as he hollered that smoke started seeping in through the top our front door. (I later learned he was actually trying to kick in our door because he heard the dog barking and wanted to save him. I almost cried. #faithinhumanityrestored)
In an emergency your brain goes onto auto pilot. You don't consciously think about what you're doing, there isn't time. You just do it. I popped the leash on the dog, grabbed my purse, car keys and my coat. Audrey, our cat, had hidden under the bed and I had a mini heart attack thinking I wouldn't be able to get her out. Phil took the dog as I was grabbing the cat and we scurried out the back door. My family was safe. Everything that had any meaning was safe.
Over the next few hours we were unsure of what was going to happen. Our apartments are connected via the attic and with older buildings there is no firewall. There were concerns about the fire getting into the attic and crossing into our apartment. I had a flurry of thoughts running through my head. Where would we sleep tonight? If our apartment burns to the ground where are we going to stay long term? We can't stay at a hotel with the pets, what am I going to do with them long term?. Surprisingly, I didn't once think about any of the 'stuff' we would've lost. The irreplaceable photos, paintings gifted by grandparents past, clothes, shoes.. none of that ever popped into my head.
I grabbed my purse knowing replacing ID would be annoying and we might need a credit card for a hotel. I grabbed my car keys so I could keep the pets warm. I grabbed my coat knowing I might have to stand outside and as you can see from the photos, it was snowing. We got lucky that night. The firefighters were at the firehall enjoying their Christmas dinner, which means they were literally 2 minutes away, every single one of them. Besides some smoke smell in our apartment and some dirty fireman boot prints, we ended that night with no damage whatsoever. The firefighters did an incredible job, our home was safe. Looking back I can think of all the things I should've grabbed. My laptop, the painting from Phil's grandpa, my baby photos, the list goes on. What I learned that night is ultimately those things are just things. If our photos ended up as ashes, I wouldn't forget the moments that we experienced. If my husbands painting burned, that wouldn't remove the memory of his grandpa. If we lost everything in our apartment that night, we would still be left with the most valuable things.. our memories, our health and each other. I hope you never have to experience something like this in life, but one gift it does give is the gift of perspective. My grasp on my 'things' is a loose one because I've been shown clearly what is important.
"The most beautiful things in life are not things. They are people and places and memories. They are feelings and moments and smile and laughter."