“Mom! Quick, call 911. The garage is on fire!”
An infinitesimal pause while the reality sinks in.
Then my feet burst into action even as my sluggish brain is still wrapping itself around the truth: This is happening to me. Me. My property and belongings. A woman of action, I’m completely paralyzed.
Realization dawns. Oh my god the goats are in the barn next to the garage!
Urgency quickly telescopes me back into the moment and my fingers dial 911 as I race outdoors simultaneously giving instructions to the operator and yelling for the rest of the household to free the goats from the barn.
Obscene black smoke smears the normally bucolic view of the square timber outbuildings. The scene is fit for the 11 o’clock news, not my own yard.
I bark out a final instruction at the 911 operator who is insisting that there is no such address and toss the phone, still live, to the nearest person before sprinting to the barn. The goats are milling in the back stall, eluding all attempts to rescue them. The grip on my heart releases as I see a path forward.
“Pick up the babies and carry them out!” We scoop up the six kids, dump them outside the paddock, then bully a couple of adults to the gate. The balance is tipped, the need to be with the herd outweighs the fear of smoke. The rest follow.
Next the buck pen where the two males need no urging to flee.
The emergency response team has begun to arrive. I stand alone in the field, surrounded by goats pressing against me. My legs are trembling and I reach out to touch them, seeking reassurance from their musky warmth.
The adrenaline drains and I realize I’m shivering, dressed an improbable combination of black camisole, shirred skirt and gum boots.
Household safe. Goats safe. Time to join the bystanders standing by helplessly as the fire fighters battle in force to subdue the flames. Hugs. Reassurances. A coat thoughtfully draped over my shoulders.
I later discover that what felt like half an hour was only ten minutes; that what felt like half an hour was actually three hours.
Ten minutes response time by the firefighters. Three hours on the scene to completely secure the building.
In the vulnerable aftermath I reflect deeply on the valuable treasures that survived the stench and the ashes of the destroyed garage. They aren’t covered by the insurance, but the fire has in fact increased their value…
A husband, who drove seven hours through the night to be by my side. Family, who dropped everything to come and stand by in solidarity. Friends, who called, visited and launched hundreds of Facebook messages with heartfelt offers to provide whatever we might need. Strangers, who heard the news and reached out generously. And the volunteer firefighters, young and not so young, who train rigorously, who wear their pagers when on call, ready to interrupt weddings, funerals and family events to respond, and who race to the scene at the sound of a siren even when they’re not on call.
Yes we’ll rebuild. Yes we’ll refill the garage with tools and gear. But they will never have the same value. And I’m good with that.