It’s early one cold December morning, and my mom rushed in to grab me and my baby sister out of the bed we shared. A few seconds later, my family – my mom, dad, sister, and me – were standing in our front yard looking on as fire consumed the old house we lived in and all of the memories that we shared there. I was four years old.
I remember the rather snug red-and-white Bart Simpson pajamas I was wearing. At that moment, it didn’t sink in that those pajamas were now my only possession. As I saw the flames and the thick black smoke in the air, my thoughts immediately went to a gift my father had given me. It was his old red drum set and I loved it. I spent hours practicing. Loudly, I might add.
Standing there in front of the house, I innocently asked my parents, “Can I go in the house and get my drum set?”
“No,” Mom said as she continued holding my hand, most likely trying to process what was happening and wondering how we were going to recover from losing everything. It stung, but I didn’t cry. For some reason, I knew this was not the time to debate my parents. I let go of all the questions racing through my mind and I just turned my gaze back towards our burning house.
A very timely knock on the door
Our house did not have any smoke detectors. We didn’t have anything to alert us if a fire ever broke out.
Sometimes I wonder how we even knew to get out of the house as quickly as we did? What allowed my family to escape what could have been a terrible tragedy? My dad always tells this part of the story with a sense of wonderment and amazement.
“I heard knocking. It literally sounded like someone was loudly knocking or banging on our door,” says my father.
As the story goes, when Dad went to answer the door, no one was there. From what I can remember about our house and size of our yard, no one could’ve knocked and gotten away that fast without being seen. That’s when my father saw the fire, woke up my mother and they rushed my sister and me to safety.
“To this very day, I believe an angel knocked on that door. There’s no other logical explanation,” I can recall him saying on numerous occasions.
My family and I were very fortunate to have made it out in time. We were also lucky that we had somewhere to go as we went to go live with my maternal grandparents until my family got back on our feet. Our community came together and provided things we needed. In the end, four lives were miraculously saved, and today we are productive members of the various communities in which we now live.
Many other families aren’t so lucky. Too many tragedies happen in homes that don’t have a smoke detector to alert them to get out.
Smoke Detectors Save Lives
In a modern world with so many technological advances, how can there still be families who live without the basic protection of a smoke detector? Today, my family and I are truly grateful that we survived. We are well aware that our story could have turned out very differently. Not every family gets a second chance. On average in the United States, seven people die every day from a home fire, most impacting children and the elderly.
The American Red Cross thinks that’s unacceptable and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) agrees.
The Red Cross has set a goal to reduce fire-related deaths and injuries in the U.S. by 25 percent. We’re working together to launch the Sound the Alarm Campaign here in North Carolina. The American Red Cross started the national campaign with the vision of installing one-million smoke detectors across our country, in high-risk areas. They reached their goal last fall. So far, the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign has saved 381 lives since it launched in 2014.
With more than 100,000 installations in North Carolina, thousands more families have peace of mind when they go to sleep at night. Blue Cross NC is proud to take up this cause with the American Red Cross and the Sound the Alarm Campaign to make our communities safer and ultimately, better places to live.
My family was lucky to have an angel looking out for us. But if an angel isn’t available, a smoke alarm is the next best thing.