Four years ago today, 9 brave men died in the Sofa Super Store Fire in Charleston, SC. And our world changed forever. Enough can't ever be said about their sacrifice and loss of some excellent people. I don't really have the words to do them justice, so will just tell my story.
I was not there. I am not a widow. My story isn't uncommon, but it's rarely spoken about. Some people believe it's time to move on, however, no other event has as drastically affected my life as this one (not even the births of my daughters - though those are a close second) and it would be hard to let this day pass and not acknowledge it in some way. In fact, I even categorize my life as "Before The Fire" and "After The Fire".
Thinking about that day can still bring tears to my eyes and I'm not exactly a cry at the drop of hat kind of girl. And not simply because some good men died, my emotions attached to it are so much more complex than that. I cry because of how much pain it's caused and continues to cause The Firefighter. I cry for what I feel it's stolen from me. I cry for the loss of our youth, laughter, and innocence. I cry because I'm worn out on it and I wonder how much longer it's going to take for "time" to heal our wounds.
The day after The Fire, I remember simply feeling intense relief that The Firefighter was coming home, after a night spent awake imagining the worst. I remember feeling intensely sad for those who couldn't say the same. I remember naively thinking that, "it was gonna suck for awhile, but give it a couple of months, and we will be fine." Oh, how wrong I was.
At barely 27 years old, I did not still believe that I was invincible, and I was not as careless as I was in my teen years, but I still thought that it was "unlikely" anything bad would happen to me or my loved ones. We were two weeks away from our wedding and the next big journey in life, and I never thought that it may not be just the way I imagined. In many ways, it was devastating when those blinders were ripped away. I began to see danger around every corner and it was hard to keep it from being paralyzing. I can say, without a doubt, I am much more cautious and serious now than I ever was before.
At 27 years old, we still believed, (I admit naively so), that those in charge knew what they were doing and had our best interests at heart. Again, it was demoralizing to learn that those same people didn't and were, to some degree, the cause of all the tragedy.
Then, there was the crushing realization that some close friends and family simply didn't understand or care about what we were going through. A number of betrayals caused intense feelings of mistrust - sometimes making it feel like it was just The Firefighter and I against the world.
It was hard to learn to laugh again.
Lastly, and perhaps most challenging of all, I had to learn to help The Firefighter cope with his constantly alternating feelings of intense anger and sadness, while smothering my own feelings.... Not gonna lie, there have been many nights I've felt alone in my marriage wondering when we were going to "get to normal". There have been days I absolutely HATE the fire department, everything about it, and would kill to not have to see or hear anything related to it - I sometimes go as far as to hide those ever present t-shirts and knick knacks.
While I learned many tough lessons in a short period of time, leaving me more jaded, realistic, mistrusting, cautious and serious, there has been GOOD that came out of this too.
I learned life isn't fair, but it does go on and the sun will shine again.
I learned to not take anything for granted and to enjoy each day to the fullest.
I learned to trust myself, my abilities and that I had more strength than I ever imagined.
Laughter can be the best medicine.
I learned lobbying for change can be both futile and rewarding (and senators can be a royal pain in the ....)
The Firefighter and I learned that we can trust and depend on each other above all else and I believe our love is stronger than it may have been otherwise.
We learned to stand up for what we believe is right and say what we believe is the truth, even if it is unpopular or others are afraid to say it.
Life will continue to challenge and change you - adaptation is the name of the game.
It's not been an easy road, and I don't know what lies ahead, but I do know we will get through it - together.
6-17-2007 WE WILL NEVER FORGET.