When you’re going through a crisis of any kind, it becomes a world unto itself. Time and space take on a different dimension. People outside the crisis exist in some blurry, dream-like pre-crisis world. Or at least that was my experience. Everything revolved around my son and the most immediate people in his life – his dad, his doctors, his nurses. Once the worst of the crisis passed and my son began to recover, my world became full of people again and these people reacted to the event of the fire and its consequences in different ways.
Most people reacted as you would expect. I’m so sorry. OMG. I can’t believe it. Sending prayers/ positive thoughts/ good vibes. Hope your son gets well soon. Thank G-d he’s ok. What do you need? Good luck with your house! I e-mailed my realtors, a husband and wife team, to let them know that selling my house would be postponed. They were very sympathetic; in fact, something similar had happened to them. Their 18-year-old son had been at home alone, though asleep, when a fire began. He didn’t hear the smoke alarm, but the dog woke him up. Hearing that made me realize how lucky we were; at least Jacob had not been sleeping and he got out quite soon. Their son had also blamed himself, purely because he was the one home alone until the fireman turned to him and said, “Son, stop blaming yourself. Sometimes shit happens.”
The neighbors’ reactions were mixed. My neighbors on one side were the people my son had run to for help, the ones who called 911 and went to the hospital with him. They took care of me and my dogs in the early days. I sent out a brief notice on the neighborhood yahoo group. A few neighbors reached out, but I felt somewhat dismayed at the lack of any response from the street as a whole. Not that I was particularly close to them, but I had participated in the bunco group for a few years, cooked my share of meals for mothers with new babies or neighbors going through a hard time, sent cards to some when a loved one had died, even donated to a charity in the memory of one who had died of cancer in his mid-40s. The neighbor on the other side of my house, who had a similar experience when lightning had struck her house last, has never contacted me. And another neighbor, who had been a close friend and frequent guest at my house for several years before our friendship dissolved, remained completely silent. I hadn’t expected much, but in times of crisis, a card or e-mail, a simple ‘So sorry this happened’ can bring some comfort. To receive so little was disheartening.
Mostly, though, family, friends, and colleagues went above and beyond my expectations. My daughter Sarah immediately began a game of phone and text tag with me, her dad, and her brother, who without admitting it, needed to hear from her. My siblings and step-mother also responded quickly. I heard from people I hadn’t heard from in months – friends, acquaintances, former colleagues. I heard from friends around the country and a few foreign countries. I even heard from friends of friends, people I hadn’t even met in person, who were ready to donate money, clothing, or other items – whatever I needed. ‘Just let me know!’ I heard from colleagues located in my office and those in other branches in different cities. It was quite overwhelming and I was grateful. My son’s escape from major injury was the big blessing. The responses from numerous people in my life have been the many small blessings.