At some point in everyone’s life they are asked the question “If you only had 5 minutes to get out of your house, what would you take?”. This morning, I got my answer.
A few minutes after waking up today, while everyone was still lounging about in PJ’s and deciding what we were going to eat for breakfast, we hear an alarm in the hallway of our apartment building. My husband opens the door to investigate. The emergency lights are flashing and fire alarms are sounding. “There has been a fire related emergency in the building. Please use the nearest stairwell to exit. Do not use elevators”, is the automated message being played.
“Get pants on!” My husband yells to the kids.
“What’s going on, Daddy?”
“There’s a fire alarm. We need to go outside.”
The kids run to their bedroom and pull on their fleece pj pants on under their night shirts. My husband grabs the leash. The dog is excited. She loves walks!
I run around the house frantically trying to find the cat. Normally, she commandeers one of the kids’ beds after they get up in the morning, but she’s not there.
My husband takes the slipper-clad children and the over-excited dog down the stairwell and outside.
I finally find the MIA cat hiding under the bed. Apparently she is not impressed by all the “early” morning commotion. I drag her out and put her in her carrier.
I shove my phone in my pocket, and grab the hard-drive with 10 years of my artwork cataloged on it as I run out the door.
Outside, there is a small group of people wondering aloud “What’s happening?” “Is this a false alarm?” “Do YOU know what’s going on?”
Someone on the seventh or eighth floor yells from their balcony. “Hellloooo!” They wave happily and laugh at the “paranoids” who actually decided to heed the alarms and vacate the building. I shake my head and hope, for their sake, that it IS just a false alarm.
My son shivers. It’s about 40 degrees Fahrenheit outside, and both children are in tank-tops. My husband takes off his wool jacket and puts it around our daughter’s shoulders. My son stands close to her as I button them both in the over-sized jacket. They look like a funny two-headed, four legged cartoon character, but at least they’re warm now.
We hear sirens down the street. The fire department here has a fast response time. The alarms have been sounding less than 5 minutes before two fire trucks are parked outside our building. Firemen fully clad in gear – several with oxygen tanks – file fearlessly into the building.
We wait outside, talking with our neighbors. All taking mental inventories of our belongings still inside.
Soon, the firemen exit the building. They look both relieved and annoyed. It was a false alarm. It was safe to go back inside. No one was hurt. There was no fire. No emergency.
We breathe a sigh of relief and climb the stairs back home.
As I cross the threshold of my apartment, I realize that my family may have a lot of “stuff”, but very little of that is important.
In all, we took the clothes on our backs (plus pants!), easy to slip on shoes, a phone, an easily-accessible hard drive, the pets, and ourselves.
Today I learned that we were willing to lose most of our possessions. It is all replaceable.
Today, I learned the most important things in my life are my family, my pets, my art… and pants.
Today, I learned that you cannot forget the pants!