340 Whitney Fire

Early June 1998

All snug in my nightgown, I drifted off to sleep. I could hear the faint sound of dishes clanking in the kitchen; my mother is cleaning everything for tomorrow. I could hear the quiet murmur of voices coming from the television in my parent’s bedroom. With my eyes half open, I watched two mice skitter across the bedroom floor and into the bathroom. I closed my eyes, matching my breathing to that of my already sleeping sisters.

It was after eleven when my father made his way to the downstairs bathroom. Once at the bottom, my father noticed a strange thing. Smoke. It was rising with curls or grey from beneath my brother’s bedroom door. Realizing the desperation of the situation, my father alerted my brothers and my mother.

Suddenly the household was in chaos. Children were torn from their comfortable beds, confused and groggy. I remember my oldest sister, Lisa, trying desperately to wake me up. When she failed to arouse me from my bed, she called my brother John for help. John took me by the arms and pulled me to the floor. I wanted to ask what was happening, but there was no time for questions. We were rushed outside to safety. Once outside we were escorted into the van of belonging to a friend of the family. We drove away, not knowing that we were about to lose everything but the clothes on our backs.

For the rest of that night, we stayed in the home of a close friend. We were welcome with open arms as well as a place to lay our heads. My younger sisters and I slept side by side in the living room. I wonder if any remember today, the number of times we bumped our heads on the bottom of the sofa.

The day after the fire was one that cannot be easily forgotten. Still in the early hours of the morning, the pastor’s wife came with cloths and a lunch for my sister Susie and I. That day, was the day my grade two class and her grade four class had our year-end-trip to the Toronto Zoo. While we were at the zoo, it was easy to forget we had lost everything the night before. However, that was not the case when we returned to school. I realized I would not be going home. My family no longer had a place to call home.

The next several days and weeks were ones of extreme kindness from our community, church, and school. The day after the fire, my family’s picture and story appeared in newspapers and on television. Soon donations were brought to our school and church. People showed great support and generosity to my family in this time of need.

Several families from our church opened their homes to my siblings and I, while my parents were looking for another house. My sister Lena and I were extremely blessed to stay at the Kappel’s place. The elderly couple soon became like our second family; they were the grandparents we never knew. It was during this time, that I realized all the things I had to be thankful for. Regardless of the fact that my family had lost everything, we still had each other.

Today, both Mr and Mrs Kappel, are already in eternity. Both died from cancer within a year of each other. I will forever be grateful for my family, who pulled together to save those who could not save themselves. I thank God, that He is the reason we are still alive, and together.

One thought on “340 Whitney Fire

  1. Wow, Margaret. You are blessed that everyone made it out safely. I can’t imagine losing everything, but it is all just material things. It’s the home, the memories and the things that hold those memories that I imagine would be the hardest to lose. I’m sorry you had to go through that.

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