Shortly after 9/11, I was awoken at around six in the morning by a gigantic BOOM! The house shook. I was disoriented. The first thought that came to my mind was, "This is it. We're being bombed. We're at war. Life as I know it is over."
The thoughts came slowly, sluggishly, as though dragged forth from a dream. Somehow, I didn't really believe them. I wasn't even sure I believed that there had been any kind of explosion. Maybe I'd dreamed the whole thing.
My parents running down the stairs confirmed the noise, but then they came up again. They hadn't seen anything out the window. Maybe it was nothing.
I stayed where I was, clutching my blanket tightly.
A few minutes later, there was another deafening BOOM! This time, the house shook so much that I nearly toppled out of bed. With a jolt, I ran downstairs to the big window in the living room, expecting to see smoke, fire, large pits in the street.
I saw the early morning sun rising peacefully in the sky, birds just beginning to chirp their friendly hellos to the new day.
My parents came down again, frazzled and flustered.
"We're going out to see what's going on," they said. "You stay in here. If anyone else wakes up, tell them to stay inside."
I found out later that a house around the corner had blown up. Apparently, an elderly couple lived there and each had an oxygen tank. One of them decided to smoke and the oxygen tanks blew up. The couple escaped safely.
A year and a half ago, I was at SJ's house for winter break when my sister called.
"N's house burned down," she said.
N is one of her best friends. She lives around the corner from us. They had just built that house only a few months earlier. It was huge, and they are a large family. Baruch Hashem, they all escaped safely, but everything of theirs was destroyed. They ran to the house of their good friends, the K family, who live on the same block across the street.
N's family took the opportunity to make Aliyah.
This past Thursday night, I was woken at around four in the morning by the sound of sirens. They got louder and louder, as though approaching where I live. I listened intently, but then the sounds grew fainter and I fell back asleep. I forgot about it in the morning.
Later on Friday, I saw my next-door neighbor's facebook status. It was about the fire trucks at four in the morning, and then I remembered about them. I asked my mother if she heard anything and she said, "I didn't, but interesting you should ask - Trademark called from camp and said she heard from N that the K family's house had a big fire last night."
Their house was completely destroyed inside. Apparently a wire on the poles in the street went dead, and because of that, two other wires clashed with each other and sent sparks to the K family's house. Amazingly, a number of other houses, including possibly one on my own block, were connected to that wire as well, but they only had blackouts, not fires. Imagine the devastation that could have happened if they'd all gone up in flame.
Why do these freak accidents happen? They are so scary. That a house can burn completely down, and then the very family whose house was a sanctuary to the first family after their fire - that family's house burns down a year later? And there was another fire on the same block not that long ago - belonging to a nonJewish family. So weird. And freaky.
What these incidents make me think of the most is that everything can be taken from you in a split second. One day you have a house, you have clothes, you have books, you have furniture. The next - you have to start from scratch.
There have been a number of fires that have happened near my own house, and just imagining what it must be like to lose everything - I can't imagine that. All I can think about is how transient posessions are.
Posessions - they mean so much to people. More than they should. You must have that sweater. Your brother needs that signed football jersey. But it's a privelege to have these things. Not a right. And they can be taken away at any moment.
What we have in this world is temporary. It's so easy to not have these things anymore. The strength the people in this community have to recover from something like a devastating fire is inspiring. They say outright: their old stuff is just that - stuff. What's most important is that everyone is safe, and that everyone is able to move forward.
It's scary - these things that happen to other people. And I suppose there's nothing stopping them from happening to anyone else. That's why we have to be so thankful for what we have, and to really appreciate the fact that we are able to have things. That we are able to have good families. Good friends.
Everything in our lives is a gift. Our families, our friends, our belongings. And everything is transient. That's why we have to appreciate what we have each day that we have it. That's why we should be happy with what we have, instead of always wanting more.
And most importantly, I have learned from the people in my community and elsewhere that you can always rebuild. What may be built may also be destroyed, but from destruction there can come building anew. It's difficult. I don't know how they do it. But they do it.
It makes you appreciate people, too. All the people in these particular stories ended up safe. It makes you really think about how incredible that is, how fortunate, how amazing. It makes me think about other kinds of catastrophes, times when there are people who are lost - not posessions. And makes me appreciate the people in my own life.
And may there be no more fires. Or accidents. Or any kinds of losses.