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Sadly, into the fire

By Gloria Diaz

Check out Gloria's Blog — Edge of Gloria!

Fort Wayne Reader

2004-11-08


I watched a house burn down today. It’s not every day you see someone’s house go up in flames, so I pulled into a parking lot and walked closer.

I asked someone what was going on; as the firefighters were just sitting there, as if they were watching television. It was rather surreal, the firefighters just camped out. I wish I’d had my camera, I could have taken a picture and titled it, “Sitting down on the job.”

The person I’d asked about the fire said it was a “controlled” fire; or maybe a “control” fire, I wasn’t sure which. Either way, it was a pleasant way to spend a fall afternoon. The fire had only been going for a half-hour when I showed up, and I was rather surprised how fast the flames had gutted the house.

But the more I watched, the more I realized this was interesting, but not really a happy or pleasant way to spend an hour out of my day. The house seemed fairly ordinary, a two story on St. Joe Road, surrounded by a few trees. It looked like there was a good amount of land in the back, perfect for exploring. It was far enough away from any neighbors that you probably could have cranked your stereo and it wouldn’t have bothered anyone. Plenty of land meant room for a garden, maybe several. It wouldn’t have necessarily been a good place for little kids to grow up; I didn’t see a fence, and being a few feet from a busy road, a stray ball rolling in the street would have meant disaster for the kid chasing it.

Who lived here? Were they happy? Did they have kids, and did they worry about them running out in the street after their ball? Did they have pets?

How many arguments were waged in the house? How many tears fell, over real or petty issues?

Was it a traditional family, or was it a conglomeration of stepparents and stepkids?

I looked at the house while these thoughts floated through my brain. I stood there as the essence of this house, its non-physical history disappeared forever. Whatever memories this house held for someone would be something I wouldn’t ever know. And it seemed sad, like such a waste. A house being burned because it was....there? Was it structurally sound? Or maybe it was an accident waiting to happen. Maybe the neighbors complained. Maybe it had been abandoned and there was nothing else to use it for except entertainment for the fire department and passers-by.

I thought about this as the flames devoured the house. Eventually, ashes had floated over St. Joe Road and landed on the spectators across the street. I brushed myself off and left. How sad this house wouldn’t shelter anyone else, ever again. Wouldn’t its former occupants miss it? Or maybe they were long gone, as unable to return to their former selves as the house would be unable to regain any of its former purpose. A place to grow, to laugh, to cry, to come in from the rain, to watch a sunset. To others, it was a house being burnt down for reasons the firefighters never bothered explaining to us.

But to me, it seemed sad. And always would be.

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