So I get a call as I'm walking back to room #6 with my roommate, Katie. It's Kjersten, my RD.
"Hey...how's she doin?" she asks.
"She's doing okay, Matt and I are walking back with her now. Her burn looks pretty bad but hopefully she'll get some good drugs soon."
"Okay...well, call me when you leave and come see me tomorrow. I just want to be sure you're okay. You know, talk through anything that might be upsetting."
What was she talking about? I had no idea. Did she think something serious was going on in my life? Was I missing something?
And then it occurred to me. She was talking about the fact that our kitchen had just caught on fire and I was in the ER with my roommate who had acquired near third degree burns on her hand.
It's Tuesday, about 24 hours after the incident, and I am slowly putting the pieces together. What's great is that there were about 11 witnesses at the time of the incident, some playing more static characters than others; some catching different pieces in the timeline of events. Thus, from my vantage point, I will try to collect for you the whole event, incorporating what I've been told by others...
I had just finished sending some research to my boss from my room when the fire alarm went off. I didn't think anything about it; it happens...and I've become an expert at blocking out my roommates when I am trying to work. But when the yelling and chaos continued, I got up to check it out. As I opened my door and walked out of my room, I saw flames going up across the stove, over the microwave, and engulfing the toaster. It was like a movie scene, except in my apartment. I remember seeing Katie in the kitchen but as I stared at the flames, my senses sort of dulled. About that time, Lindsey came out of the laundry room on her phone and had the most confused look on her face. As she tried to escape out from behind the door, which opens right into the burning stovetop, she slipped on the oil that had splashed onto the floor...
Katie was doing a trial run for fried cheese balls for our Greek dinner the next night. She does not remember how or why the oil pan caught on fire; only that it did. At that point, she had to reach around behind the flames to turn the burner off. She picked up the pan to move it to the sink, and as she reached with her left hand to move the faucet out of the way, a drop of water leaked out of the faucet, causing the pan to burst into flames...and catch her hand on fire. She immediately threw the pan back onto the stove, causing the oil to spill onto the floor, the stovetop, among other surface areas.
...Both of them crawled out of the kitchen, at which point I lost track of Lindsey (and Joy, for that matter, who was frozen in shock somewhere behind me). Still staring at the flames--mind you, this is milliseconds later--I saw Katie scramble to the closet out of my peripheral. For some reason, I think the door was already open when I flew out of it, still in my heels and work clothes, to grab the fire extinguisher (I don't know why it would've been but I don't remember opening it). All I know is that I jerked on the metal lever, glass shattered into thousands of slivers in slow motion, and I grabbed the fire extinguisher. I pulled the plastic ring off as I headed back into the apartment, and Katie instinctively grabbed the fire extinguisher from me to put out the flames. I looked to my right and saw Tamara and Sarah (my neighbors) standing horrified and worried in the doorway...
Tamara was approaching the top of the hall staircase when she saw me book it to the fire extinguisher. Apparently, I was yelling all kinds of expletive as I tried to figure out what to do with the extinguisher...though I have absolutely no recollection of this part, nor pieces of the following 5 minutes. Tamara told me later that night: "You were possessed. You were in another world, and I watched it happen. I heard the fire alarm and when I got to the top of the stairs, there you were saying, "----, s---, how the h--- do you work this thing?" (Great).
...I walked out of the apartment in a trance, just knowing that I couldn't stand to inhale any of that anymore. At that point I realized I was shaking. I stood facing the open entrance into our apartment. I could see Joy and Lindsey still standing there behind the smoke, in shock, and Katie making sure the fire was completely out as she yelled for someone to get her ice. I yelled back that that was a terrible idea. I became aware of a woman holding a dog standing beside me and a little Mexican boy from upstairs whose expression spelled terror. The woman was yelling for the girls to get out, to quit breathing in the fumes. In my mind, I thought, "yeah! Get outside!" but nothing came out. She coaxed Katie into the hallway who was holding her hand up. Again, she calmly asked someone to call her mom and began inquiring about insurance. Within these few seconds, I watched her fingers change from red to white, from swelled to bubbled to blistered. I took in a large breath and ran back into my smoke-filled room to grab my keys, wallet, and cell phone to take Katie to the emergency room...
Part 2 to follow soon.
- Two things have I heard.
- I always seem to have a plan. And after a brief moment--when measured against the timeline of one's life--He gracefully and graciously ruins my plan of the hour, whatever it may be, in lieu of a greater one. This has occurred in my life without fail. In light of recent circumstances, a reverberation of His love, strength, and faithfulness has echoed in my spirit. As David said, "one thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving." Psalm 62:11-12