I have been pretty quiet on the social front, not a lot to say, but I have some things to talk about…Here is an excerpt that I posted on Google + a month ago.
On October 9th, our family’s lives changed forever.
We were awoken at 4:15 AM to the sounds of our smoke detectors going off. What the heck? Why are they malfunctioning?
Our smoke detectors were wired in series, meaning that when one went off, all three of them went off. One on each floor of the house. I ran to the one in the hallway, while my wife ran down to the first floor.
“Anything?” I yelled
“Nope” she yelled back. Then I heard her open the basement door and yelled “Oh my God, there’s a fire, everyone out!”
Here’s what I remember…
I yelled for the boys to get out. Ethan, the oldest ran in his younger brother’s room and they scurried past me. I ran back into my room, grabbed glasses and phones and ran down the stairs and outside.
By now, the smoke was thick and pouring out of the house. In 2 minutes, the house was filled with smoke. My wife was dialing 9-1-1. I looked around. Only 2 boys. Where is Sam?
“Where is Sam?!?!” I yelled.
“I don’t know, Dad, he wasn’t in his bed, or in the living room.”
I panicked and ran back into the house and did a sweep of the living room…no Sam. I ran upstairs, did another sweep and grabbed an armful of clothing and blankets. No Sam.
I ran back outside and threw down the clothing. I looked at my wife and said that I didn’t find Sam either. She asked me again and again, “where’s Sam?” I had no answer. Nobody had any answers. But we all thought he was in that basement.
I don’t remember doing it, but I had opened the garage door. None of us went out it, we went out the front door, which was recessed from the garage door.
I recall grabbing a t-shirt, wrapping it around my head, my wife yelling “No! You’re not going in there!” and then running back in to find Sam. I got about 15 feet into the house, and the smoke was choking. The heat in the house was rising exponentially. I got to the top of the basement stairs and remembering looking down the steps, and realizing that if Sam was down there, he was gone, and that I would never see my little boy again.
I don’t know why, but I did what I felt was selfish and cowardly, and turned around and walked down the hallway to get out of the house. I knew that I needed to stay alive for the rest of my family and they didn’t need to bury me and Sam. I would have to live with that, the guilt for leaving him in the basement.
The fire dept. arrived quickly, but didn’t move quickly when I told them that Sam was in the basement. As more emergency personnel arrived on-scene, I waited. Firemen went in and came out, more went in and came out. Then more went in and came out. The fire chief, I think, came over to me and said they had swept the house 3 times, and Sam wasn’t in there.
“Oh, my God…he’s the one that started the fire…but he’s alive”
I knew where he would go. To school. I told them the direction that he went, and where he would be. He may try to run and hide, but he’d pop out soon enough.
*Note: Sam is a 13-year old autistic boy that wouldn’t hurt a fly. You ask 100 people that know Sam, and all 100 would say the same thing. “Sam wouldn’t hurt a fly”*
While I was in the house, the call came over the radio. Sure enough, they found Sam a block from school. He was safe, but had no idea what had been transpiring for the previous 2 hours. He arrived in the back of a police cruiser as I was coming out of the house after the fire was out and we were allowed back in to gather some belongings.
I hugged him and the rest of my family. News crews were onsite, and I said some not-so-Scoutly things to them. As the investigators finished their duties, the fire was ruled a non-intentional accident. From the story that Sam gave, he was playing with matches, and the sparks landed on some clothing and started to burn. He got scared, grabbed his coat and shoes and backpack and was going to hide out in the park by school.
My mother and my in-laws took the kids to her house to feed them and get them warmed up. It was 35 degrees that morning, and all they had were blankets and some of my clothing to throw on.
After the excitement from the fire died down, my wife and I returned to my mother’s house to figure out the next steps. We had already talked to the insurance company and the claim was started. The restoration company was already onsite, doing the walk-through. My adrenaline was finally wearing off. I talked to Sam to see what happened and why he did what he did…
The next part shocked me to the core. I never thought I would hear this come out of my son’s mouth. Ever. None of them.
“I wanted you, mom, the dog and my brothers to die. I hate all of you wished that I was in jail so that I could be alone. I hate you, and my brothers, and even Mom.”
I was floored, stunned, couldn’t even think straight. Honestly, my first instinct was to knock him out and hog-tie him. I was fearful for the lives of my other sons, wife, mom, and in-laws. Did I have a monster standing in front of me?
I went back in the house and told my wife, then my mother and mother-in-law. We placed a call to Bellin Psychiatric Hospital. They wanted to see Sam right away. My wife took him, I couldn’t bear to even look at him. My heart told me that this is my son, and to love him unconditionally. My brain told me this was a monster, and he’s ready to kill anyone of us.
He was placed in the facility for a few days, and with some talking and counseling, he said that he didn’t really want any of us dead, that he didn’t mean that, and that he said that to make me mad. Well, honestly, something told me to control myself, otherwise I may have taken matters into my own hands, and I wouldn’t be here writing about it.
So, let’s fast forward to today.
A lot of the things that I talked about are in hindsight and after replaying the events, over and over in my mind and telling the story to other folks. I recalled minute details after talking to people, because in that short amount of time, you cannot take in that many details.
First….you ain’t a tough guy…ever. You may see it in the movies during a burning building scene, but now I understand why firefighters wear the stuff they do. To…be…safe. You can’t hold your breath that long, or crawl on the ground to make your way through a fire. You can’t see 1 foot in front of your face. The smoke is choking. The smell is piercing. Everything about it is horrendous.
Second. Check your batteries and don’t disable them, ever. They will save your life.
Third. Get insurance if you don’t have it…even if you are a renter. I hope that you will never have to use it, but thank God if you ever.
Know that when your heart and brain aren’t on the same page, you will be tortured worse than any other pain imaginable.
3-4 months worth of repairs. We are displaced, living in my mother’s basement. 5 of us…living in what comes out to be a bit more than a one-bedroom apartment.
We lost 95% of the contents of our house. All of our Scouting stuff, mostly gone. Camping gear (urgh…my hammock setup), uniforms, patches, awards, books, literature. That hurts. I can’t say that “it’s just stuff.” because it’s not. It’s memories. Those things are the tools that brought back the memories.
I told a friend yesterday that it seems that it’s worse than having a death. Honestly, how many people do you know that lost everything in a fire? Probably a lot fewer than those that have experienced the death of a close, loved one. The death of a loved one is tragic in itself, but you have things or items that remind you of the good times. Ours are gone.
Sam is good and we have talked a lot. I have asked him about wanting to hurt us, and why did he play with matches, and that, and we’ve been very frank about it. He’s seeing a therapist often and talking about his actions and possible ramifications of what he did.
Today, a few weeks after this post, the emotions aren’t as raw, but there is still pain. The pains that we are feeling are not of the trauma that we all went through, but more for the road ahead of us.
My family is stronger, my relationship with my wife is great and we are doing things that we haven’t done in a long time. We still have to replace all that we lost, and find another place to live, but we are truly blessed with great friends and support from everyone. Once things start falling into place, we can heal some more.