Friday, July 12, 2013

Flashback Friday and Why I Moved Home

Today I feel like sharing a very scary story that may seem a bit incredulous, but I promise you it's not. This event happened at a critical time in my life and it was the deciding factor in why I left The Ohio State University despite friendships, scholarships and the ability to graduate in less than three years. To this day I know that I made the right decision for me, but I still get sad when I think about the strong friendships I formed and the distance between us. (Seriously, can someone teach me how to teleport?) Luckily for me many of those friendships remain strong and I have several amazing friends willing to make the trek to California for our wedding next year.

The day my house was on fire

The night my house caught on fire, I was home alone when I went to bed. I made sure to lock the front door,  leave the living room light and TV on before I went upstairs. I don't like to be home alone, but I didn't want to go out and party, like most Saturday nights. I was excited. The next day I was going to buy my first car (on my own). I excitedly chatted on the phone with my then-boyfriend about the next day. I made sure to lock my bedroom door too, because we lived on the edge of "college town" and the beginning of section 8 housing. It wouldn't be my first scare (nothing bad ever happened...we were just 5 girls living in a house with homeless people living in the alley behind it).

Around 2 a.m. I finally fell asleep, still the only one of the five of us at home. Three of my roommates were out of town for the weekend and the other was at a friend's house.

Then, I woke up, terrified. Someone was trying to get into my room. Instinctly, I grabbed my phone and joined in the screaming. Then I heard my name being shouted, over and over again. Once I realized it was my roommate I ran and unlocked the door.

"Raewyn, we have to get out. The house is on fire."

Running down the stairs I remember simultaneously shouting that we need to call 911 (she already had) and I kept repeating "boots and jackets, boots and jackets." It was actually the coldest night of that winter so far, and somehow we weren't the only place on fire.

What I don't remember about running down the stairs, but what is probably my favorite part of the story is that I texted my then-boyfriend "My house burning" (What an awesome text to wake up to when you're girlfriend is thousands of miles away, I'm sure).

As we ran out the front door (in our boots and jackets, thank you very much), we saw that the police had already arrived. I stood out front of our house in shock, staring at it. It was just about 5 a.m., I was being snowed on and there were flames pouring out of my neighbor's house, licking the side of our beautiful Dollhouse.

I watched 3 homeless men get carried out of the neighbor's house as I made sure to call each of my other roommates and tell them what was happening. They shuffled us between a bus and the back of a cop car, while we waited for my roommates parents to arrive. The entire time all we could worry about was our cat, whom I had unknowingly locked in my room, ultimately saving her life.

Fresh snow hours after the fire

After the fire was put out we were allowed in to grab ours and our roommates' valuables since the house would be open in the next few hours. At the time we could only grab a few things because they wanted to make sure the fire was out. 

As we walked in the house we were devastated to see the water damage, in addition to the fire damage. The fire only touched one wall of the house, but the firefighters were thorough to ensure nothing else caught fire. My bedroom and our extra bedroom were the only two rooms untouched by fire or water. I was blessed in this because I was the only roommate who was from out of state. Where my roommates had hand me down furniture and furniture brought from home, I had bought all new furniture only months before. All of my clothes were in that house, I would not have been able to return home to get anything new. As I mentioned, locking my cat in my room had saved her life. 

Taken the day of the fire...completely untouched, laundry still there

She hid under the bed and did not accidentally run into some flames in her fear, nor did she get lost by running out of the door. She did not stop shaking for days and was consequently terrified of ever leaving the house after that, but she was alive. 

Princess Gwenevere, I miss her!

Somewhere in the midst I called both of my parents and spoke to a news reporter. My roommate's parents bought us breakfast and offered me a room for a few weeks while we found a new place to live. We returned later that day to retrieve the rest of our stuff. Everyone drove home early and we hastily stuffed all of our belongings in trashbags. 

Our next stop was the laundromat, where we washed all of our clothes and blankets. I spent only $200.

That's a LOT of quarters

Nicole and I at the Laundromat, happy we survived!

Luckily, our landlord - the most awesome and amazing and gracious landlord we could have ever asked for - found us a new place to live by the end of the day and it would be ready for us by the end of the week. We would be downsizing from a 6 bedroom to a 3 bedroom, but luckily 2 roommates' families lived within 20 minutes of school. 

By the end of the day I had made my decision to move back to California. There was a feeling and a voice inside me that I could not ignore. No matter who hugged me or took care of me that day, I needed my mom. I was 19 years old and brutally homesick. Returning to school for my sophomore year had already been tough. I had spent much of my first quarter as a freshman and all of my second ill due to the weather. As a consequence, my friendships were affected. Determined, I returned the following fall. Fall Quarter was amazing, and winter, too, but I just knew that I needed to leave. 

The fire had started late Saturday night when three homeless men were squatting in my neighbors' recently evicted house. All of their hoarded belongings were still inside. Being the coldest day of that year, the homeless men started a trashcan fire. As my roommate was drifting off to sleep she heard yelling and a big crash. She looked out her window to see flames pouring toward her. The three homeless men were rushed to the hospital, but did not survive. 

The neighbors' house, condemned, a year later, frozen in time

To this day, I am terrified of fire, and I live in a state that's biggest and most common disaster is just that. It's fire season right now, and every year my nightmares come back. I am both fascinated and scared of fire, yet I could not be more proud of my fiance for his dream to be a firefighter. Those men kept my roommate and I calm as they handled our fire that day - only moments after leaving another fire earlier that night. Those men are endlessly brave, and we are eternally grateful. My heart aches for the firefighters Arizona lost a few weeks ago. 

All my love,


  1. Oh my goodness that had to be so scary. I would be freaking out. I would have gone back home too.


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