We had a frightening reminder of how our stay on this earth can suddenly come to an end. We were at our desks when we first heard the helicopters. Not a totally uncommon occurrence in an urban area. We first thought, “Who are the cops chasing now?” Then Neil realized that there were five helicopters and that they had their lights focused on the lone tall apartment building in this area. We are just four blocks inland from it and it is the center of our view towards the shore. As we stood at our window, eyes fixed on the scene and picturing different possible scenarios, the lights suddenly hit the smoke pouring out of the building. I said, “Oh no, it’s a fire!” Our view was of the backside of the building, so it was hard to tell what was going on. We could see the silhouettes of a few people in the upper floors and wondered if they were trapped. Why didn’t they get out of the building?
The whole scene brought back memories. We used to live in a high rise building downtown that was built in the 1920s. We had so many false alarms there that people stopped bothering to come down – even one day when it was a real fire. We were lucky that the fire was small and easily handled by the fire department that day. While we lived there we watched the scene unfold at a similar building down the street from us. It was a bad ending for them: a lot of fire damage and the loss of the woman’s cats. She had left candles burning when she went to the beach with friends. So sad. The month after we moved to our current apartment, our old one at that building was gutted by fire. The new tenant lost everything! Can you believe it? One of our old neighbors called us and we drove over. We just stared up in shock at the windows – melted curtains and all – of the place we called home for 7 years. I remembered wondering about some of the old light fixtures. It still frightens me when I think of how close we came to disaster.
Back to last night: after 10 minutes or so the helicopters began to leave and we hoped that there had been no loss of life. We watched the 11pm local news and checked online, somewhat surprised that the press had managed to pick up the story. We had hoped for the best, but as the details began to come out we heard that someone died. Learning more this morning, I feel sorry for the people who had to watch it unfold. So horrible.