Three years ago, I watched an entire apartment building burn down. I was across the street in my own apartment building, three floors up and after calling the fire department, watched the scene from my balcony. When you haven’t seen a fire up close, it’s easy to believe that fire-fighters show up in time, douse water on the situation and maybe there’s a grimy, ashen mess, but everything and everyone is okay. When this fire started, it was small. It was in a first level apartment, barely seeping out the window. By the time the fire-fighters arrived, it had already climbed to the third floor and over an open stairwell until the entire unit was ablaze. Because it happened so fast, and at night, everyone lost everything they owned.

I was reading Cassie’s blog yesterday, where she included a link to The Burning House. It’s a fascinating log with a simple premise: If your house was burning, what would you take with you? I’ve often imagined what I would take, and also, how I would escape if the fire was at the front door. Look at all of these fire escape rope ladders! Here are some of my favorites:

And, here is my own. I’m in the middle of a move, so a lot of my things are in storage but when I actually had to evacuate–about a month after that apartment fire across the street, this is exactly what I took:

the burning house

I always keep my files in a bag like this anyway, ready to go. You’re not seeing all the clothes I packed–which was everything I had on my back plus a sweatshirt. Maybe some of these things seem trivial but in the moment, I was genuinely thinking about the most expensive items in my house with content that couldn’t be replaced. All of these electronic things are small and slid right into the bag. And as an example of my state of mind, I also brought a bottle of Dom Perignon that I had recently received as a gift. If I truly ended up without a place to live, I knew I’d need something to convince my friends to let me take up camp in their living rooms. In retrospect, I’d probably take whatever I could fit in my car. I had nightmares afterward about trying to fit my television in my backseat, or throwing my mattress over the balcony. But in reality, I can live without all of it.

What would you take?


One thought on “THE BURNING HOUSE

  1. Cassie says:

    I love that you have a personal experience that’s so close to fire. I can’t ever imagine a fire happening in my house *knock on wood.* I always unplug my toaster after I use it and I always turn off my coffee pot because I’m deathly afraid I’ll leave and have a fire and my cats will die. It’s kind of ridiculous. I go a little overboard.
    I love everything you would grab because they were good thinking. I was all about the sentimental, photos and journals really. I like that you are more practical.

    I am obsessed with those file folders you have – what brand are they?

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