Meet The Team - Erin Scott, Operations Manager
Erin's Birthday Musings
Last month, I turned another year older, and I’m grateful to do so (minus the neck wrinkles). Each year, I reflect on the previous year, on my life as a whole, and on where I hope to go for the future. I tell you, these last few years have been strange ones.
Right in the midst of the pandemic—10 days before Christmas—our home caught fire. We lived in a 6-person oceanfront condo (our dream), and the HVAC system in the unit below us sparked a flame. Due to the age of the building and multiple remodels that weren’t done to code, the fire swept through the entire building. Thankfully, every person and animal made it out, but while the building still stood, everything inside was lost.
I’ve been afraid of fire my whole life. When I was in elementary school, they showed us this horrifying video of fire and burned people. I slept underneath my window for months so I could jump right out if something happened. When I was ten, I begged my mom to give me a trial run of staying home alone. She finally agreed to go the convenience store up the street for a few minutes and let me practice being alone. In that short time, the fire alarm went off from dust, and she came home to find me hysterically crying at the mailbox.
My fire fear was so bad that I didn’t let the kids have candles on their cakes until they were at least ten. From almost the moment our children could walk, I had them practice fire drills several times a year. We identified the mailbox as the safe spot to stand and wait, just like I’d done when I was little and the dust set off the alarm.
And then our house actually caught fire.
My dad said I’d faced my worst fear and survived, so I should be proud. And in the sense that I didn’t full-on panic, I am. I somehow managed to keep my wits about me, and I made amazingly rational choices. But I can’t forgot how I opened the HVAC door and saw flames eating up our floor. And I can’t stop the nightmares that still come. And I’m sad that we’ve lost 18 months in our dream home – yes, it’s still not fully repaired yet.
So, while this does not constitute advice, I’d like to share with you some things that helped our family in this situation.
1. We had an escape plan. We practiced fire drills often. When I yelled fire, the kids knew exactly what to do. It helped us focus on getting the pets and other items knowing our children were safely waiting at the mailbox.
2. We’d purchased a fireproof box/safe. Because of my lifelong fear of fire, we had a fireproof box where we kept all our valuable paperwork (marriage license, birth certificates, passports, etc.). We did not lose those items and have to go through the time and headache required to replace them.
3. We’d uploaded all of our photos to the cloud. Many people say one thing they would regret losing in a fire is their photo collection. When we were planning our cross-country move, we elected to scan and store all our photos in the cloud so we wouldn’t have to haul big containers of photos with us. It turns out that helped us in the fire. We didn’t lose a single photo.
4. We’d planned what we would grab. My in-laws live in fire country, and a few months before our fire, they’d been under a Level 1 “get ready to leave immediately” notice. When we talked to them on the phone, they were having trouble paring down their items to the “you have 2 minutes essentials.”
However, we aren’t stuff people. Most of our items had little monetary value, but we had identified our computers, my purse, his wallet, and our phones as something we’d grab in a fire. As if on autopilot, I grabbed our computers and shoved them in my purse during the fire. My husband got his wallet, and we already had our phones on us. Since we’d pre-selected those items, we could get them quickly and didn’t have to replace them.
5. We supported the Red Cross. We’ve always donated to the Red Cross, especially in times of crisis, but we had no idea how much the Red Cross would help us. They provide a large, upfront, no questions asked stipend to help fire victims purchase the essentials they need. We were able to go to the store right away and buy clothes and toiletries thanks to the Red Cross. They also negotiated with our pharmacy to get our prescriptions refilled that very day, and they paid for them.
I will say, the outpouring of love and kindness we received from our family, friends, strangers, and the community stunned us. The fire happened right in the middle of the mask/no mask debate and right after a contentious election. People who wouldn’t even speak to one another due to their differing beliefs set all that aside and worked together to help our family. It was a beautiful display of the best of the human spirit.
I’ll leave you with one final thought. As I watched flames burst forth from my dream home, I didn’t think for one minute about what was inside. I just kept counting my family and our pets over and over. And when I’d get to the end of my count and confirm they were all, in fact, still there with me, I’d feel this immense gratitude.
I never expected to feel grateful watching a fire consume my home. But I did. Because that event and that moment really solidified what is important – my people (and our pets). They’re what I truly can’t live without.