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Being Thankful…

June 16th, 2009

Why does it take a major life changing event to remind you how precious life is?  The things that you think are big deals become very small and your overall perspective changes.

I say this because while I was grocery shopping yesterday, I got a phone call from my mom.  She seemed a bit off and then proceeded to tell me that there had been an Explosion, yes explosion, at their house.  Of course my first reaction was to say, “you are kidding right??”  Like who would really kid about that?  Apparently about 10:15 yesterday morning either the gas hot water heater or the gas furnace exploded, causing a large fire.  6 Fire trucks and 45 fire-fighters arrived at the house to find the entire right side (garage and bedroom above) engulfed in flames.

Luckily the house did have smoke detectors which were hooked to the house alarm and immediately alerted the fire department.  I can only imagine the shock my parents felt when they received the calls at work from the neighbors that their house had “exploded” and was on fire!  One neighbor said she was standing at her kitchen window across the street and saw the garage door get thrown about 20 feet from the house.  It stopped only because a tree was in its way.

garage door(sorry for the hazy/grainy photos but we only had Mr. vB’s iphone to use to take photos of the damage)

Other neighbors thought the explosion was a sonic boom because it was so loud.  The Fire Marshall’s will be back out at the house today to investigate further to the exact cause.  All we can keep thinking is thank goodness no-one was in the house.  We played the “what-if” game over and over last nights, saying what-if this had happened on Sunday when they were home, what-if it had happened in the middle of the night, what-if...  I just keep coming back to the fact that both my mom and dad are safe and alive. A ton of things were destroyed by the fire, but no one was hurt.  That keeps the perspective in check I think.  Things can be replaced.  My amazing parents cannot.

Here are some photos of the house throughout the day yesterday.  (I was trying to find a before photo, but I think they might be on Mr.vB’s computer.  If I get one I will add it to the post)

house with wallThis photo was taken mid day from a local newspaper reporter.  At this point the second floor had already collapsed onto the first floor and they were having trouble getting to the fire.

back of houseThis photo, also taken by the newspaper reporter, shows the opening where the garage door use to be.  The wood that you see is actually the second floor that crashed down.  Since the opening was now blocked, the Fire Captain decided they would need to bring down the front exterior brick wall to be able to fully extinguish the fire.

Here’s what the house looked like by the time Mr.vB, my brother and I could get down there last night, which was about 6:30pm.

house missingIf you scroll up to this same shot of the house and compare photos, you will notice that the garage wall is totally missing now.

full view houseAnd here is what is left of what use to be the garage and the bedroom above the garage.  Notice the large opening in the top left side of the house?  That was my bedroom and the opening is actually where the closet use to be.  The floor was so damaged that it crumbled as well.  I apparently had left a ton of old letters and photo albums in that closet.

pile of stuff photo albumHere I am actually digging one of the albums out of the pile of rubble.  It made me think that if I was that distraught over losing a bunch of old photo albums that I hadn’t seen in years, I couldn’t imagine the overwhelming feelings my parents must have been having.  Obviously everything that was in the garage- tools, the riding lawnmower, hunting equipment, gardening equipment, the generator- were all lost, as well as everything that my mom had stored in what use to be my brother’s bedroom over the garage- smocked dresses, family heirlooms, antiques, a gorgeous four poster bed.  Even my poor brother lost some things.  He had stored his entire collection of Widespread Panic and Grateful Dead Cd’s at my parents because he was in the process of declutteting his own house to sell.  He was worried that if he stored all 1,500 CD’s in the storage unit that they were renting, they would get messed up somehow. He never imagined that they would be ruined at my parent’s house.

sideview of houseToday my parents begin the process of figuring it all out.  They currently are staying at an Efficiency Hotel and are being helped out by friends and family.  I just spoke with my mom and she said they have gotten back into the house, but there is smoke damage everywhere.  A company called ServePro has been hired to come in and literally take EVERYTHING out to clean and restore.  She says the are trying to figure out what things they need immediately and what can wait.  Then at some point they will begin the actual rebuilding process.  Sounds like all the carpet and wallpaper will have to be removed and everything will have to be repainted, as well as the garage and bedroom being rebuilt.  But for now, they just need to take it day by day, hour by hour.  It’s a lot to digest and think about.

So the moral of this very somber post is the following:

1. NEVER take loved ones (family and friends) for granted.  Life is too short and unexpected things CAN happen.

2. Check your smoke detectors every couple of months to make sure the batteries are good.  Even if a fire does start, someone can be alerted before everything is lost.

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  1. Joette
    June 16th, 2009 at 12:31 | #1

    Mrs. vB…I am so glad to hear that your parents are okay. I cannot imagine what your family is going through at this time, but please let us know if there is anything we can do to help out your family! Much love! Your family is in our thoughts!

  2. Anne W
    June 16th, 2009 at 12:39 | #2

    Totty, I have been and will continue to pray for your family during this tough, tough time. Please let us know what we can do for you!!

  3. June 16th, 2009 at 14:44 | #3

    Oh Totty! Wow, I too am sorry to hear about this! Your family is definitely in my thoughts and prayers. Thank goodness no one was home. I’m sorry to hear about all the family heirlooms, etc… too. :-(

  4. Kara Streker
    June 16th, 2009 at 14:48 | #4

    Oh my gosh. This made me cry. I am so sorry that this happened to your parents, Totty. I can’t imagine how emotional it must be for you all. Your family is in my thoughts and prayers.

  5. Lettie MacCleery
    June 16th, 2009 at 18:36 | #5


    What a surprise when we checked the Daily Press on line this morning and there was an article about a house on Reynolds Dr. that had an explosion and fire. I called Jan Lockhart to see if by chance it was your parents house – and it was. What a blessing they weren’t hurt! What a shock and what a lot of work now to get back together. Please let them know my thoughts are with them in this stressful time. We were in Sturbridge, MA on our way to Canada. Tonight we are in Freeport, ME . Tomorrow, New Brunswick.

  6. Linda C
    June 17th, 2009 at 15:25 | #6

    Totty, what a wonderful reporter and blogger you are!

    Your mom called today and told me the unbelievable news. Thank goodness they were not at home and no one was hurt.

    After reading of the fire and looking at the incredible photos, I found myself captured by your blog. It is GREAT! I look forward to reading more and being inspired by your projects, your creativity, and your shoes!

  7. Danna Flaherty
    June 17th, 2009 at 18:51 | #7

    Oh Totty- this was shocking! I can’t imagine the emotions that your parents, you and your brother are feeling. You may feel distraught, but you also sound quite unflappable in the face of everything. We’re sending happy thoughts & prayers to all of you!

  8. Mary Paige
    June 17th, 2009 at 19:04 | #8

    Totty, I’m so happy that your mom and dad were safe. I know it’s not easy taking in all that has happened. But you are exactly right… never take loved ones for granted. It’s unfortunate that some of the things cannot be replaced, but I’m thankful the most important were not home when it happened. I’m looking forward to seeing you all in a few weeks. Take care!

    Mary Paige

  9. Catherine T
    June 18th, 2009 at 08:21 | #9

    Totty, how wonderful that this happened when it did!! I am SO thankful that your parents were not home. Of course being out of your home is no fun, so please know that your folks are surely in my prayers this week. C

  10. terri jones
    June 18th, 2009 at 11:17 | #10

    Totty, Mom called to tell me about the explosion and I had the same reaction. Must be a joke (considering my mother), but of course, it wasn’t. I am SO glad that everyone is safe, that your parents had no animals and that the house is rebuildable. I know Mom and Martha and the rest of the neighborhood are doing their best to help your folks out. Phew!!! You’re absolutely right … never take anyone or anything for granted! Take care, Terri (Jones)

  11. June 18th, 2009 at 13:16 | #11

    Totty, I’m talking with your mom daily and they are both doing amazingly well. I just bought your mom some new gardening gloves! It is a painful experience but they will be just fine. Actually, I know this is a sad time for you and Trav also, so know that I am thinking of you and please share that message with Trav.


  12. janel
    June 19th, 2009 at 01:57 | #12

    Gosh, Totty, I don’t even know what to say…except that Jon and I are thinking of you and your family. At least during this ordeal, you and your bro are there to help your parents out. It sounds like they’re also in good hands with friends and neighbors. You’re family is quite lucky (considering the awful circumstances) Take care…

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