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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Year(s) (01/20/11)

TITLE: 1999
By Justina Page


On March 7, 1999 at the crack of dawn something goes terribly wrong. I awake to explosions, smoke, darkness. Oh my God! The house is on fire. Our family is jolted from our peaceful bliss and thrown into chaos to a home totally engulfed with flames. The sound of appliances exploding is deafening, the vehement heat and assaulting smell throws us into a tumultuous state of confusion and shock. My husband begins frantically jumping in and out of windows in complete darkness desperate to save his wife and young children. Like precious obedient lambs, the three oldest boys grab their younger autistic brother and wait at the designated point for their father. Their obedience is rewarded with life and merciful 1st and 2nd degree burns. I am thrown out first but I reenter the inferno hysterical - determined to reach my precious 22 month twin bundles. I am pinned by a large burning oak bookshelf that falls on me. I am trapped, burning, and unable to speak above a whisper. My husband discovers me under the burning shelf and throws me out our bedroom window again. I crawl from the window to the front lawn leaving pieces of burned flesh as I go. My hands are so badly injured that I could no longer use them to hold myself up.

Despite our greatest efforts, everyone doesn’t make it. Tragically the house collapses before my husband is able to get our twin son Amos out. I and the other twin are severely injured in the process. We lose every earthly possession in a matter of minutes. I drift in and out of oblivion. The paramedics try their best to arouse me – “Breathe”, he says “please breathe baby!” Tears are slipping down his face. I know that the candid display of raw emotion shown by this male paramedic cannot be good. I hear extreme panic in his voice. Then I hear another voice, an unearthly voice similar to a fearful wild animal – it is my twin son Benjamin. I cannot bear the thought of Benjamin feeling the horrific pain I am experiencing. I pass out succumbing to utter darkness.

My eyes slowly open and they are as heavy as lead. I awake from a six week coma, intubated, disoriented, and in excruciating pain. It is insanely hard to focus. What is this large obstruction down my throat? Suddenly I feel like I am losing my grasp on life – I feel the eerie nearness of death. Where in the world am I? Where is my family – my husband and my sons? I plummet into a full blown panic attack. The fire. Who lived? Who died? The pain is severe – it hurts to think. I have lost the ability to do anything on my own. My orderly world is out of control and I am not in command of anything.

The ICU nurse must have notified my husband that I was awake. I hear footsteps approaching the door. I am unable to turn my head toward him, but I know it is him. I am all too familiar with his presence. I feel love and concern flowing from him before he even touches me. He is cautious and very gentle. The depth of his love uplifts my spirit instantaneously. We look into each other's eyes determined to be strong. For a fleeting moment everything is ok. He begins to speak but I cannot hear him. My thoughts and faith are battling. The strong facade is fading. I am tumbling out of control again. He cannot see the sudden descent of my courage. It all takes place inside. I know he would have saved me from this free-fall if he had known it was happening, but the descent is concealed.

It has been five days since I have awakened to a living Hell. The nurses will load me on the cart and wheel me to the debreeding room. Their faces will be compassionate. They know this will hurt badly but they must do what they have to. The first few milligrams of morphine will be administered. A deceitful peace is felt and quickly dissipates with the first scrub. Everyone is dreadfully afraid. I am afraid also - very afraid. Unfortunately, I cannot communicate the depths of my despair and anxiety. I can only lay there enveloped in a blanket of dread tied down by a mass of lines and tubes. Wondering, what type of existence is this, who can help me...where, is my God?

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This article has been read 399 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Judie Stone01/27/11
This is a powerful story. I felt every emotion and the pain as I read on. I would love to read the next chapter. This would make an incredible book. I feel like I just want to read more. I am hooked. I would love to know if you continue this story into a book. I WOULD BUY IT FOR SURE.
diana kay01/29/11
great powerful writing. the use of the present tense makes it all the more immediate. I have recently read a book called Race for Life. It was by the mother of Joel Sonneberg a 20mth old boy who suffered terrible burns in a car fire.It is an old book and Joel is now an adult and written his own book.
i am not sutre that this piece fits clearly into the years theme but it is gripping none the less.
Verna Mull 01/29/11
A very gripping story
Bonnie Bowden 01/30/11
I remember visiting the burn unit at the local hospital in 6th grade. I writhed in agony just looking at the faces of the patients. I decided then and there never to be a nurse.

I can not imagine how much pain, both physically and mentally, you must have gone through. I am sorry for all the loss.

Your story expresses,quite graphically, a time of great testing and trial. I don't know why God didn't intervene on your behalf at the time of the fire, but I do know that He loves you deeply.

Very moving and painful to read.
Bryan Rudolph01/30/11
Evincing. Convincing. Compelling. Overwhelming.

Please take Judie’s advice and cement your story in a book. Please.
Justina Page01/30/11
The book will be published in April
Michael Throne02/01/11
Great story. The action and internal dialogue got me hooked and held my interest.