Up in Smoke

It was a hot night, and I wasn’t sleeping well. It must have been around 4:45am when I awoke with a start. It sounded like raindrops or hail hitting my window air conditioner. In retrospect, I must have smelled smoke as well because I was in full-on panic mode. I jumped out of bed and fumbled to turn off the air conditioner, but the noise continued. As I looked around my apartment—my home, my beautiful little 1920’s apartment with original wood floors, crown molding and arched doorways—I saw wisps of smoke dancing around the ceiling. I ran into the kitchen to make sure nothing was on fire and caught a whiff of smoke. The smoke was pleasant smelling, and I thought someone had fallen asleep with incense lit. I grabbed my cell phone, threw on my Birkenstocks and ran up and down the first and second floor hallways, looking for the source of the incense. When I didn’t find incense smoke coming from any doors, I began to worry. I poked my head out the front door to see if a neighboring building was on fire. As I looked outside, I was surprised to see a woman across the street staring back at me. The way she was looking at me made me nervous. “Is my building on fire?”, I yelled. “Yes”, she replied. I asked if she had called 911, and she had not. I stood and waited for what seemed like forever for my 911 call to connect, and as I waited I saw a police car pull up. The police and fire stations are within blocks of my apartment so I assume they saw the smoke before any of us did. I ran back into my apartment, figuring it was safe because I hadn’t seen flames. In retrospect, this probably wasn’t the best idea. I went into my kitchen looking for the most important things to take with me. I saw thick smoke in the building’s courtyard, and as I was standing in the kitchen doorway, the wall next to me began to bubble and pop and I could feel the heat radiating on my skin. I screamed and ran for the living room where I hastily threw on sweat pants, grabbed my phone charger, laptop, and purse. When I got into the hall, no one else was out there and still no alarms were going off. I ran up and down the hall banging on doors and walls as loud as I could and I ran out of the building. Fire trucks were beginning to pull up as I called my two friends who live in the building and left them pleading messages to wake up and get out. I sat down on the curb, slung my purse over my shoulder, hugged my laptop close and began to cry. I watched several firemen work together to pull heavy hoses to the fire hydrants. Then I watched as no water came out. They disconnected the hose and pulled it over to a different hydrant. My neighbors and friends gathered outside the building, and we watched smoke pour out to the background of a beautiful sunrise. Continue reading “Up in Smoke”