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!


3 thoughts on ““Emergency”

  1. I probably could scan them, but that would take a lot of effort. Ha. I have too many other projects. I have typed up some of my college year ones into my blog. Maybe someday I’ll do the rest. Since I actually kept a journal, I will probably end up with children who have no interest in reading it. That’s how it works, right? 🙂

  2. I am glad it was a false alarm. I am amazed there were people who would ignore it!! That’s impressive that the fire fighters arrived so quickly. I’m trying to think what I would grab. There is a file in my desk with our passports and birth/marriage certificates. After pants, children, phones, and costs, I would probably grab that file and the hard drive.

    This has been on my mind recently, because back in August or September, there was a fire one street away. Apparently someone improperly disposed of smoking materials on a back deck. Two townhouses were completely destroyed and then a few neighbors had some damage and water damage. It was sobering to see ashes landing on my car and the sky darken and realize that someone was losing all their possessions. Thankfully no one was hurt.

    I would be sad to lose my journals. (I’ve been keeping them since I was twelve.)

    • I was amazed at how few people actually came outside! The response time is so fast because the fire station is only a few blocks away. It’s rather comforting to know someone is only 5 minutes away in an emergency! I completely forgot about all our documents! They were not very important to me in those five minutes. I suppose that is because in the back of my mind I realize they are able to be replaced… of course that will be a different story when we move overseas!

      I’m sorry to hear about your neighbors’ houses, but so happy that no one was hurt. It really does make you stop and think “What would my family do?”

      Are you able to scan your journals and store them digitally so that if (God forbid) they were ever physically lost, you could still share them with your children?

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