Wednesday, February 1, 2006 - The Birmingham News
"FIREFIGHTERS, POLICE BATTLE BLANKET OF SMOKE IN SOUTHSIDE HIGH-RISE"
At least twenty-two firetrucks surrounded our building! I've heard of four and five-alarm fires before, but Hey, what do they call twenty-two fire trucks anyway? ( Perhaps a "22 Scadoo" eh?)
We, the residents, stood shivering in the parking lot. Some, like myself, just had enough time to throw a coat over their night clothes, put on flip flops for shoes, and still had rollers in their hair. Others, bless their hearts, left their teeth in a glass upstairs, and their toupees and wigs wherever; and the bottom line ...We didn't make a very pretty picture for the hordes of cameramen....who kept clicking and flashing away throughout the fiasco.
With four TV stations, two newspapers and just plain old photo junkies on site, we were a pitiful sight to behold; and yet due to the fire - modesty, vanity and privacy was disregarded in lieu of exciting Headlines, fascinating Stories, and melodramatic Pictures.
In fact, I spent most of my time hiding behind cars, turning up my coat collar and trying desperately to keep myself off the front page of the morning newspaper or on a local TV screen...and believe me, it wasn't easy!
Having a twelve-story apartment building in the hub of a big city going up in smoke - couldn't be ignored. Plus the added attraction of a bunch of old folks scantily dressed hiding behind cars in a parking lot wasn't exactly what one would call a"Back Page News" item, either.
Today, nine months after the fire, it's easy to look back and find the comical aspects; whereas on February 1 it wasn't funny - it was scary, tragic and traumatic, especially for Senior Citizens. However, we were blessed. Out of 160 residents present at the time, only one person was hospitalized for serious burns.
The firefighters did a tremendous job and had the fire under control in no time; however, the smoke lingered on much longer. Many residents on the 7th, 8th and 9th floors were unable to return to their apartments until many days later.
What I remember most about that day nine months ago...was the friendly fire-fighter who stopped by and chatted with some of us about the items we had grabbed as we fled our apartments...thinking perhaps we should save some of our most valuable possessions "just in case".
"No faith in us, eh?" the firefighter grinned.
After three grueling hours of fighting, he was obviously tired, dirty and in need of some quiet R & R...but as he walked through the parking lot on his way to one of the Twenty-Two fire trucks surrounding our building - he took the time to laugh and joke with us.
One lady was holding a valuable Monet painting, a silver tea set and some jewelry; another neighbor had his golf clubs, some insurance papers and bonds, and I? Well...let's just say I gave the firefighter his first "chuckle of the day".
But look at in from MY perspective.
When evacuating a burning building with only a two minute notice - you have to think fast, choose quickly and move speedily. Plus, I lived ten flights up, so that meant ten flights down the stairwell, carrying all my treasures...so I had to also THINK mobility and weight.
Remembering, of course, I only have two hands.
Thus, when the firefighter stopped and looked at my measly little pile of prized possessions...he had to chuckle. I was clutching a Mickey Mouse phone (antique), a portable typewriter (which had a handle), a large fifty-cent Poster of my favorite Movie Idol (light-weight) and my Mother's Bible (sentimental)
"What a combination", he chuckled, "you can call, write, dream and read...what more do you need?"
You know somethin'? I liked that fire-fighter. He wasn't just a brawny dude who wears a helmet and drives a big red fire truck...he digs what is most important in life. Communication.
Think about it!
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