Thursday, March 27, 2014
The Empty Shell
It's a very sad scene. There's probably nothing to salvage inside, they don't yet know if it's structurally sound, and there's a deep pool of water in the basement.
The building is similar in size and style to ours, and so it's not hard to imagine something like this happening much closer to home. People have been asking me if we keep our carriers ready for the cats in case of emergency, and I realize we need to get a fifth one for Lion. Pronto.
We had a little fire in our building one winter morning, years ago, when I was home alone, eating toast in my bathrobe. A vacuum cleaner belonging to the team who cleaned our building's common areas started to burn, and the carpet began to smolder. Instead of alerting anyone who was inside and calling 911, they just pitched the vacuum cleaner outside and left, leaving the burning carpet. I smelled smoke and then saw it wafting into our bedroom. I called 911, threw on clothes, and started to evacuate. In those days, we stored our cat carriers up in our crawlspace, so I needed to get the ladder and climb... and I soon realized what a bad plan that was. Even so, adrenalin works wonders. I had stuffed three of our four cats into carriers and gotten them outside, past the smoke, by the time the firemen came. It all took just a few minutes. (I couldn't rescue Snicky, our tortoiseshell Persian. She was only about 7 lbs. but was much too wild for one person to handle. Wendy is like her; we know she will be the last cat we'll catch and zip into a carrier in an emergency.)
That was a tiny little fire. The firemen came roaring in from three blocks away on Boylston Street — the same guys who fought yesterday's fire, the same guys who raced into the smoke and chaos of the bombings three blocks away last April 15, the same guys we say hello to whenever they're out in front of the firehouse. They put out our baby fire with extinguishers; they didn't need hatchets or hoses. They cut the power (and the heat) to the building, opened every door and window in the place to clear the smoke (I had keys or hatchets would have been used). Eventually let me back inside with the cats.
That turned into a long, cold, but extremely lucky day. I spent it guarding the front doors, which were wide open, ushering in more firemen, police, and electrical inspectors, and keeping our cats from escaping into the hall or the great beyond. That night, I found my plate of cold toast. And realized I was still wearing boots without socks and clothes without underwear.
We fired the cleaning company and hired a responsible one. We bought fire extinguishers for our apartment and for the hallway. We moved the cat carriers to a closet where we can grab them if we need them in a hurry. And we keep our fingers crossed that nothing worse ever happens because rounding up five cats (or four, or three, or even two) when you're already in a panic is a god-awful situation.
Having been through that tiny taste of fire, I hate to imagine what the people in 298 Beacon Street have been going through. I can imagine it, but I can't bear it.