it's not as bad as we thought

I started this post this morning, as as information has trickled to me all day, my outlook has improved. First, from this morning:

Ugh...I just got off the phone with my sister Heather, who lives in Florida. Turns out my sister Hillary (in Cleveland Heights) is faring much worse than we anticipated. Not only is she homeless as of this morning, but everything she owns is severely smoke damaged and will probably need to be replaced. This means she has no clothes, no furniture, no bed. My sister and father went over there today to open some windows and air the place out a bit, but unfortunately, they are having a blizzard in Cleveland today, and the place just started filling with snow.

What really breaks my heart is this was my sister's first apartment, and she absolutely loved it. It was fairly large, with high ceilings, a large living room and formal dining room, hardwood floors, and large bedroom with huge closets. It's in the fashionable Coventry Village neighborhood of Cleveland Heights, built probably around 1915 or so. Hillary finally landed a position as the admissions director of her former high school, a job that afforded her to move out of my parents' house and into her own place, with no roommates. She absolutely loved her apartment, and every time I talked to her, she'd tell me how much she appreciated having her own place where she could call all the shots. Kind of like I do now. I don't know if I could ever go back to having roommates, except for someone with whom I'm in a long-term committed relationship.

So last night around 8:00 PM eastern time, she had her first little holiday get-together. She invited 5 of her closest friends, and the mood was festive. The apartment was spotless, the decorations were hanging, her tree was trimmed, the food was prepared, the music was playing, the candles were lit, the wine was opened. Gifts were being exchanged, they were laughing and having a wonderful time, and my sister was happy...she was in her own home with her closest friends, doing what she had always wanted to do.

Suddenly, there was a frantic pounding at the front door. My sister opened it, and her neighbor from across the hall said, "Get out of the building! There is smoke coming out of my sink!" Panicked, my sister and her friends grabbed their purses, coats, and cellphones (except for my sister, who left her phone in the apartment, unfortunately), and quickly evacuated the building, running through the smoky hallways down three flights of stairs to the ground floor. The party was over, and she watched helplessly as her home burned brightly in the night sky.

So now...she has nothing. A week before Christmas, and she's effectively homeless (moving back in with my parents is going to drive her insane). Her furniture is ruined, her clothes are ruined, and she pretty much has to start over. I feel bad for her, but I know she's going to be okay. I mean, to be in the my family means you will always show strong resilience in the face of adversity. You will never be beaten down, no matter how hard it seems. To be a Fox means you have a strong heart, and keep things in perspective, and count your blessings. Most importantly, being a Fox, whether you're one of us or one of our partners/spouses, means knowing you're never out in the cold as long as we're a family, no matter how far-flung we may all be. And no matter what, you will always, ALWAYS, come out on top, smelling like a rose.

:::UPDATE - 13:11 PST:::

I just got off the phone with my mom...they are at a laundromat washing every article of clothing my sister has. Hopefully, that will get the horrible "burned house" smell out of her clothes...you know the smell. It's not only wood smoke, but burning plaster, wires, plastic, lead paint, clothing, furniture, electronics, and roofing material. It's an ugly odor...the smell of someone's life literally going up in smoke. I was able to glean a few more details from them...my sister's neighbor has a gaping hole in his bedroom floor and ceiling, and his kitchen...the one with the smoky sink...is completely destroyed. Hillary's apartment, fortunately, is only smoke damaged (and has a battered, splintered front door), and her power was actually switched back on. Maybe she'll get to move back in after all...we'll see.

Ai yi yi...she just doesn't need this shit.

:::UPDATE - 20:11 PST:::

I just got off the phone with Hillary. Turns out the hot Cleveland Heights firemen -the ones who made sure her apartment was saved from the raging fire that destroyed several other units in the building - helped themselves to the trays of undamaged holiday treats she still had out on her dining room table. Of course, they asked first, as the CHFD is apparently a civilized one. She had bacon-wrapped scallops, vegetable bird nests, tiny little quiches, and plates and plates of holiday cookies, including her own secret recipe chocolate chip cookies. The firemen ate every scrap, actually. Cleaned her out. And she was grateful. Hilly was like, "God fucking damn, doesn't anyone ever feed those motherfuckers?" And you all thought *I* had a dirty mouth. Anyway, it could have been a lot worse...she's lucky. Very, very lucky.

I think they blew out her candles for her, too.

I feel so bad for her...she's sleeping in her old bedroom tonight, the one she had when she was a kid, at my parents' house. While talking to her, I couldn't resist singing this old Crystal Waters song to her:

"She's just like you and me, but she's homeless...she's homeless! La da dee, la da daa, la da dee, la da daa..."

She responded with a torrent of obscenities that made the paint on my walls peel, and some sailors on San Francisco Bay blush like Catholic schoolgirls. It looks like her apartment is going to be okay...there is no soot damage, just lots and lots of smoky stink everywhere. She Febreezed her mattress today, and cleaned up the place as best she and my parents could. They have to wait for it to stop snowing before they can open the windows and really air the place out, but the freezing temperatures and snow they're currently experiencing in Cleveland aren't making things any easier.

Hey...she's a Fox...this too, shall pass. Trust me, my family has been through a lot worse. If this is the biggest catastrophe to hit us, I consider ourselves to be immensely lucky.



At 14:48, Blogger Steve said...

Wow. I'm very sorry to hear this... especially around this special time of year. Your entire family is in my thoughts.

At 19:13, Blogger Jase said...

I'm happy to hear that things might be looking up for your sister... and your description of the Fox family is endearing. Best of luck!

At 19:47, Blogger hidden said...

I am so sorry to hear about what happened to your sister. What a bad time of year for any tragedy. Hope all turns out well for her. I am thankful she made it out ok. Hope all is well your way. I'm sorry about not visiting lately. I fly out of Atlanta this Thursday for Christmas at home. Mom tells me there is a ton of snow on the ground waitin for me. I just know when I get into Detroit I am gonna panic. Hell its been over 2 years since I have seen any snow. Take care stud.

At 08:53, Blogger Greg said...

Sorry to hear what happened to your sister, but at least she's okay and only had to put up returning to the folks for a little while.

At 12:08, Blogger Hot Toddy said...

I can't believe you sang that Crystal Waters song. In the interest of preserving your relationship with your sister, can I give you some advice? Do not, under any circumstances, sing to her the Talking Heads song, "Burning Down the House". Trust me on this one, Chad.

At 14:50, Anonymous Anonymous said...

glad to hear evrything is alright with your sister. that happened to a co-worker of mine a couple years ago and she lost everything. i pay about $13 a month for 50k in coverage on a renters policy. good for a little piece of mind.


At 16:32, Anonymous Anonymous said...

SS: Half empty or half full? I'm glad she got out OK, you can't ask for a better Christmas present than that. It sounds like she should be able to get things back together, but will probably smell the smoke until May, or June, or July, or whenever the fuck the warm weather starts up in this god-forsaken tundra. Best wishes to you & the family.

At 17:31, Blogger Jon said...

Wow- I almost wanted to cry when I first read this. Like everyone said, it couldn't have happened at a worst time of year, but I was glad to hear there was little damage done to her place. I hope she can move back in soon, but if not, that's what family is for.

If I were her, I would have reached though the phone and slapped you, but it sounds like she has a great, and I do mean great sense of humor.

At 14:13, Blogger Cole said...

Thanks for taking us all on a whirlwind of emotions with that post. As others have said, it's looking good for your sister, although there are still a few challenges ahead. But definately a guardian angel was on duty over her!

At 10:02, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two years ago I lost everything in a fire that started at 3:30am on a Saturday. The smoke woke me up I had time wake my roomates and to grab a sweater before vacating the apt.

My roommates kept just about everything(as the fire was in my area) but I lost all I owned after the fire I had a pair of underpants and a sweater(not even a pair of sneakers). The destruction was so total that I did not even have my birth certificate.

We were fortunate as there was no loss of life and now what I lost is behind me.

Living with my Mom for the 3 months it took to pull it togeteher and get another place was hell after having my own for many years.

The red cross and other agencies can help with the reconstruction of the life. Your sister is rightfully very angry but she lived through it and may be able to recover much of her stuff. There are enzyme cleaner deoderants that can be used on cloth and upholstry items and there are housekeeping companys that can restore most damage caused by smoke.

At 17:25, Blogger myke said...

wow ... tough situation but at least she's alright and her apartment might get saved. will they rebuild the others around her or will the building have to be vacated while it's being fixed?

At 14:54, Blogger Mariana said...

Merry Christmas! :)

At 12:53, Blogger hidden said...

Merry Christmas to ya stud. Hoping everything is well with your sister. It is so freaking cold here in MI. Although the time spent with family and friends is extra special, I can't wait to make it back to GA.


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