I didn't really think there was a fire in the garage but I was concerned for my coffee roaster which I thought may have overheated so I hurried towards the front of the house, through the laundry room and opened the door leading to the garage. Total darkness which was odd because I had left the light on while the beans were roasting. It was too dark to enter the garage and the smoke was too thick anyway. The foyer's fire alarm prompted me to action. I let the garage door close and hurried through the foyer and out the front door, grabbing the keys to the garage on my way out.
Upon opening the garage door, I could see the smoke got thicker towards the back of the garage but I wasn't going to be in there long so I took a couple of steps towards the back corner where the roasting appliance sat. Flames erupted from the far end of the workbench stopping me dead in my tracks. "Oh crap!" I thought. Running back around the front corner of the garage, I called to my wife who waited expectantly by the front door. "Call 911!" I yelled. I went back into the garage to try and do something about the flames. There was a water hose on the back wall, if I could just... No dice, this was getting serious. "Crap, crap, crap, this can't be happening," I thought, realizing at the same time that my life trajectory just took a significant zag.
I ran back in the house as Michelle and Jon evacuated, pets in tow. "The oven," I thought and ran back into the kitchen to turn it off. Wouldn't want the oven catching fire. I grabbed the car keys exiting the front door. The flames licked at the second floor balcony even as the three of us backed our cars out of the driveway.
I paced back and forth on the sidewalk opposite my house, loud gunshot noises burst periodically from the garage as one by one my bike tires exploded drawing more and more people from their houses. A carbon trispoke track wheel flipped into the air with a loud pop. "Fascinating," I thought. At this point, I didn't care about all my bike stuff going up in smoke. I kept thinking how good it felt to be alive. "Thank you," I said to no one in particular.
I wasn't feeling the cold but a neighbour from across the road took the plaid jacket he wore off his back and gave it to me. He was the first of many. The police arrived and began backing people away from the immediate vicinity. As I wandered down the street away from the fire, people from the neighborhood approached me with offers of help. "Whatever we can do," they said. I thanked them politely but my mind was kind of vacant. The lights were on but nobody was home.
Sitting in my car now, the heater on to keep warm, my phone rang. It was Michelle. We had gotten separated. She was at one of the neighbours up the street. I was interviewed by a policeman and then the supervising fireman and finally the fire investigator before I was able to make my way to the neighbours house to join Michelle.
At the neighbours house, relatives were called and cat food, dog food, and kitty litter magically appeared. A coat was given to Michelle to go over her onesie. The three of us were given shoes to replace our slippers. Coffee and tea provided to warm our insides.
We stayed overnight in Michelle's brother's home, their two kids vacating their rooms to provide places for us to sleep though none of us really got much sleep that first night.
By the next day, Friday, word had gotten out. More clothes magically arrived at Michelle's brothers house. Heavier coats were provided. I was given running gear by one of my thoughtful friends who thought I might want to "clear my head with a run". Before the day was done, I learned that Shanta had started a GoFund campaign.
It was awhile before I paid much attention to it. I had other concerns on my mind. Also, I had only limited access to the internet at that point. My daughter, Alysha, who had driven from Montreal that first night, first mentioned it stating that over $4000 had been raised already. I was surprised. By Sunday, it was up over $8000. "Holy cow," I said at dinner that night. "Who are these people?"
Alysha began reading off names. Shanta kicked it off with a $500 donation followed quickly by $200 then a $500 anonymous donation, $250, $200, $200, $50. These were not small amounts. I was blown away and had difficulty processing what was going on. "Why are all these people giving me money?" I wondered. I still had plenty of other things on my mind and put the matter aside for the time being.
There was/is much to do. Insurance has put us in a pet-friendly hotel suite. We've gone shopping for all manner of essentials: clothes, bathroom stuff, a replacement computer, more pet food and supplies, groceries, and of course workout stuff. I've been able to more or less maintain my run schedule. I was fortunate to have left my training road bike at a friend's house as well as a trainer so I've been able to keep up with the weekly "Usual Suspects" spin class. I've been able even to get out to a track session (though the gearing, or rather lack thereof, on the rental bike was punishing). This has kept me more or less sane as we go through follow up interview with the fire investigator, insurance adjuster, a second insurance adjuster (they brought in the big guns once they learned of the extent of the damage), the insurance forensic analyst. Living out of a hotel suite is, of course, not ideal so much of our time these days is spent scouring the internet for house rentals (going to see one this afternoon) as well as shopping for all new furniture which we will need once we find a suitable rental. Which finally brings me to the main point of my rather lengthy (maybe somewhat run-on) expose. Up until now, I've been pre-occupied and as such have neglected to adequately give thanks to all of you who have so generously provided support of one means or another.
Thank you! To everyone, thank you so much. I can't express how I feel about all the support. I've finally had a change to go through the list of donors. I don't know what to say. As I told Shanta, "I feel like Jimmy Stewart at the end of It's a Wonderful Life".
"What's that?" Shanta asked.
"You're kidding," I responded. "You've never seen It's a Wonderful Life? She had not. Anyway, that's what I feel like. I always loved that movie. I've seen it several times. I particularly like the end where people pour out of the woodwork in droves to offer their support and bail George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) out of a seemingly insurmountable hardship. I can't believe this has now happened to me. There have been donations from every quarter. People I haven't even seen for ages. Some people I haven't even actually met. Many donations from previous members of the FMCT triathlon club I used to belong to, many donations from members of the Brampton Cycling club, huge support from Kurzawinski club members, donations from people I've known through bike racing, many anonymous donors, donations from long time friends and of course the "Usual Suspects" (you know who you are). I feel very humbled.
Shanta is hosting a "social drop-in" at her house in Milton tomorrow (see below) where I hope to thank many of you in person but for those who are unable to make it: Thank you all so very much!
Hello Richard Supporters,
We are hosting a Social drop-in at my place to thank you for your support and to give Richard a Hug!
Address: 230, Rowe Terrace Milton Ontario
Food and drinks would be provided, however feel free to BYOB.
Looking forward to seeing you all!!