These Are the People in Your Neighborhood

– Okay! Let me tell you what’s been going on this week so far. Monday at work was pretty standard. I even freaked out my new manager by telling him that he has a speaking role at our upcoming graduation. He was not happy about it, our campus director did not discuss this with him. I made the mistake of assuming someone else would convey that message to him like…oh…his manager? Oh well. He knows now. I asked him, “Do you know that you have to speak at graduation?” He did not. My coworker and I both informed him that he is the MC that night. Our department manager usually is the MC unless we don’t have a manager. He thanked me for letting him know, and then thanked me later for “dropping the bomb” on him. I’m trying not to get the 80s song stuck in my head.

– Anyway! After work I stopped by Walmart to check on their newly expanded grocery department, thinking that everything was ready. It wasn’t. The produce/meat/poultry/seafood/bakery section was not complete. A misunderstanding on my part. They have a countdown chart at the front of the store, showing how many days till the BIG day. Last week I figured it would be done by that Monday. Nope. Anyway, a little jilted but aware that the Earth was still in tact, I went home. That’s where things got a bit crazy.

– I exercised (that’s not the crazy part), and just as I had ten minutes left to cycle, the smoke alarms in our apartment building went off. Ugh! Not again! I ventured out into the hall and my next door neighbor saw me. We both rolled our eyes and shrugged. Then I heard some people saying that “it’s for real – there’s smoke”. A few people were panicking.

Most of us left the building, and I noticed people were looking up at the far corner of the top floor. Sure enough there was black smoke billowing out. The fire department and police arrived, pushed us back to a safe spot, and the extinguishing commenced. Apparently the fire was on the other side of the building on the top floor, and flames were shooting out. The fire department was there from a little after 8pm and didn’t leave until midnight or probably later. Our apartment wound on up the news.

I was able to chat with a few of the residents I know. We hugged, we bonded, we chatted and some cried. Families with little kids sat on the grass and watched and waited in exhaustion. I chatted with an old guy who sounded like Walter Matthau. Then I saw my neighbor from across the hall. She is one of the nicest ladies – she actually introduced me to more people she knew in the building and then the two of us ventured to the other side of the building to see what it looked like.

Windows were broken, smashed out by the firemen to allow smoke to escape, and the window frames were charred. Unfortunately, the big, charming Budweiser banner hanging so eloquently on the railing of the balcony next door, was not burned. Not that I wanted any other damage to be done to more property, but that banner could’ve been lost without anyone shedding a tear.

My neighbor and I decided to head out for a bite to eat, so we went to the Mad Cactus just down the street and had greasy food and margaritas. It hit the spot, but both of us wondered if we’d get to go home that night. I seriously doubted it. Didn’t want to be negative, but I could see into the near future and there would be a lot of work for them to do and so on and so forth.

We returned to the building and were told to go in through the front doors rather than the door by the mail room. A shred of hope in us made us think maybe we could return to our abodes. Police officers and firemen were still inside, talking to various people. Tall, helpful, heroic and uniformed police and smoky, helpful, friendly, uniformed and heroic fireman….Um…Did it just get hot in here?

Anyway, a really nice policeman asked us which wing of the building we lived in, and he said that part was closed, we’d have to spend the night elsewhere. But he let us go up to gather our things. I ran into an officer who teaches at the school sometimes. He led us to our apartments. I collected some clothes, makeup, a book and my cat. My neighbor lady went to the Red Cross van that was letting people know where they could stay until it was safe. Apartment management was having people stay in hotels and would reimburse them. I could’ve taken advantage of that, but my mom was her usual awesome, caring self and said Skittles and I could stay with her. So we drove over to her place and I called off work for the next day. It was a good thing, I barely slept and I would’ve been a useless zombie at work.

Yesterday I stopped by the leasing office and asked about the status. My floor still needed to be inspected, they were still going through the first floor. They will call once everything looks okay.

So that’s where it stands! Some people at work heard about what happened, and a few of them know that it’s the building I live in. They were concerned, it is very nice. :)

Good news:
– Nobody was seriously hurt (the boy who accidentally started the fire had his hair burned a bit, but he’s okay too)
– It could be worse – I know it’s a cliched, rose-colored glasses kind of remark, but it’s true.
– Did I mention the helpful and heroic…and uniformed…police and firemen? Extreme thank yous go out to all of them. I guess we had help from nearby towns and their crew too! Thank you!
– Quality time with neighbors who, even during tough times, can still laugh about stuff.

Bad news:
– Some animals died due to smoke inhalation – people had birds, cats, etc.
– Who knows how long the people on the top floor will be homeless. They’re not literally without shelter, but…they’re not at home either. I feel for them.
– I feel bad for the boy and his family. It was just an accident, those do happen, and my mom and I were hoping that nobody would give them grief for what happened. But I’m sure there will be a few.

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11 thoughts on “These Are the People in Your Neighborhood

  1. What a frightening and exceptional evening! You must have been exhausted just thinking about it all. I would have found it impossible to sleep too. I’m glad you seem to be holding up well and that Skittles was okay. Good luck getting back into your home, hope it’s not long.

  2. Oh, how scary. I had the same attitude about the tornado. Sure, I had to stay with a friend for a while, but nobody died. I’m glad your kitty was fine and you were smart enough to find margaritas and greasy food while you waited.

  3. Wow! It has been a crazy time for fires. So good to hear that no one was hurt. That kid must be feeling sooooo guilty. I like to think of fire as a very beneficial technology, but it has to be handled CORRECTLY!!!

    As for the public speaking, that would freak me out! never liked doing that at all.

  4. Wow, Tara, I am so glad that you and Skittles are okay. What a traumatic event and then not to be able to go home. It sounds like you have some awesome neighbors…and let us not forget those brave officers and fire fighters…sigh…

    Please let us know how things progress…and when the time comes, let us know if your new boss is a good public speaker :-)

  5. Grakki: I’ll have to get a new phone book, that’s how many numbers I got! Woot! No, actually I did not get any phone numbers. Oh well. :)

    AlienCG: Thank you! Yes things will settle down and be okay.

    Abroad: Well hey there! Thank you, I think we’ll all be thinking differently the next time the alarms go off. Yeah the Bud banner should be “accidentally” dropped in the trash.

    FW: Thank you so much! My cat and I will be moving in to the new place tomorrow. It’ll be a new adventure, that’s for sure!

    Churlita: Yeah that was nice to get away from the scene and eat some tasty food. The margaritas were excellent too.

    Seb: Hi! I keep hearing various stories about what that kid was doing in that room that would cause a fire. I’m hoping still that it was just an accident – but I’m guessing either way he’s not a happy kid.

    Laura B.: Thank you so much, LB! Not being able to go home and settle in right away is not my (or I’m sure anyone else’s) idea of rest and relaxation. But things will settle down and we can settle in.

    NoRegrets: He actually lives in the next building. I thought of requesting a room in that one, but they weren’t taking too many requests that day. :(

  6. I’m glad to hear that you’re okay, and that most people came out fine. It’s a terrible tragedy, but it could’ve been worse. Accidents happen, but it’s up to us how to deal with them and move on. I hope that everything works out for your and your neighbors. I hope that kid gets well from his injuries.

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