I will never forget the day I passed my written driver exam and got my permit. The instructor just informed me that I passed and he was reviewing the junior driver restrictions with me as I was full of smiles. Meanwhile, I looked over at my dad and he was staring at his phone with a strange look. The instructor and I just ignored him and went on with our own business. “Excuse me sir, but I must take this call…” my father rudely interrupted. I was so embarrassed because there were signs all over the DMV office that read, CELL PHONES MUST BE TURNED OFF. He opened his phone and said, “Hello?” The look on his face was unforgettable as he turned as white as a ghost. My dad didn’t need to say one word in order for me to know something was wrong, his face said it for him. My first thought was that someone was in the hospital or had died. Although no one had died, little did I know that phone call was going to change my life forever.
The call was from the North Middleton Fire Department and they informed my father that he needed to get to the house as soon as possible. My dad was about to shut his phone when suddenly I heard my sister on the phone. All I could hear was her crying hysterically and screaming “Fire”! I had one thought going through my head at that moment, and it was my niece, Myleeah. Did my sister get her out of the house in time? She was only six months old and I adored her more than anything in the entire world. We ran out of the DMV office both in complete shock. Needless to say, my dad was driving like Jeff Gordon at Daytona.
At this point I didn’t even know how to prepare myself. The thought of my house burning to the ground didn’t seem to be real. I kept telling my dad it probably wasn’t even that bad and to stop driving like a crazy man. The drive from the DMV office to my house is only a fifteen minute drive, but it felt like forever. Finally after running red lights and driving off the side of the road, we were half a mile away from the house. All we could see was black smoke filling the sky and floating ashes. This is when reality hit me and I thought not only did I lose my home, but also my baby niece. I began to break down in tears and pray that everyone was safe.
We finally pulled into my neighborhood which was full of fire trucks, police cars, and black ash. Since all the roads were blocked off, we jumped out of the running car and started running to the house. The police tried to stop my dad, but he zoomed right by them. I attempted to follow him but the police officer grabbed my arm. “Let go, that’s my house!” I screamed at the top of my lungs. I then eventually caught up with my dad in front of the raging fire and we stood there in surprise. It was a hot, dry, windy August day and there was nothing the fire fighters could do, but watch it burn.
I finally found my sister sitting in our neighbor’s yard with black ash all over her. As I began to approach her, I didn’t see her baby, Myleeah. I froze about three feet in front of her and felt my legs go numb. “Myleeah?” I said under my breath with sorrowfulness. I was thinking that she was in the house burning to death, and someone had to do something. When I got enough courage to walk up to my sister and ask where Myleeah was, she informed me that she was safe in our neighbor’s house. Hearing that she was safe was the happiest moment of my life. I was full of joy and relief. At that point I didn’t care about all my clothes, jewelry, shoes, and purses; I was just delighted to hear my family was safe! My father walked over and sat in between us and put his arms around my sister and me. We sat there in silence as all the ashes of our belongings gently landed on us like snowflakes. Having my sister and father next to me, I realized all I cared about and all I needed was my family.
People always talk about life changing events and now I know exactly what that means. I always thought that nothing traumatic would ever happen in my life, but I was obviously completely wrong. Now when I hear about or see someone else facing a hardship, I see the same pain that I once felt. My house burning to the ground changed my life and taught me many life lessons that I will carry within myself forever. First it taught me that life is not about materialistic things and you never realize what you have until it is completely gone. The most important thing in life is having your family members by your side and I was extraordinarily grateful to be able to see my father, sister and niece that next day. A big part of life is about making it better and taking anything that crosses someone’s path as a learning experience. I also now understand many challenges will come my way, but how I handle these challenges is what will make me a better person.