Monday morning the fire alarms in the building went off. The lights went out and suddenly I heard knocking from door to door with the manager telling us to evacuate because there was a fire in the building. I gathered what I needed and began the 500 foot stretch down the hall to the outside. I couldn’t see a fire but I could smell it. The smoke wasn’t thick. I could still breathe but I couldn’t see a thing. It was totally black. The flood lights weren’t working. I couldn’t see a thing in front of me but I could reach out and grab the anxiety in the air. Going down the blacked out hallway with fire somewhere was eerie to the point of shaking me to the core. Then out of nowhere came bright lights from a cell phone with a flashlight on it. Even that spooked me. To go from pitch black to seeing people around me I didn’t know were there, yeah, that was kind of scary.
My CNA was with me the entire time. We got outside and low and behold, it was raining! We made it over to the gazebo out of the rain where my CNA was able to sit down. I was in the wheelchair so ya know, I came with a chair. So anyway, we sat and waited for who knows how long before they let us back in building one. We had to wait about several more hours before they restored electricity but fortunately I have great candles. The problem was that when we got back inside we were both wet because we’d walked to the gazebo in the cold rain. We were miserable but there was still stuff to do. For one, I had a phone therapy session to do and the CNA needed to check on the laundry that was started before the fire. Did my sheets and blankets survive? Yes, they did but we still had to dry them so she stayed in the laundry room upstairs in the dark while I did my therapy session in the dark.
When I talked to Dr. D I was very calm, very together. For the vast majority of the session I was in task mode, get through it mode, feel nothing, keep moving. Just the facts, ma’am. Dr. D even commented that I was very calm for just having been through a fire evacuation. I just couldn’t let myself feel the stress full force. I knew I was affected by it because all I wanted to do was go to sleep. I could easily have gone to sleep directly after having evacuated. It reminded me of one time when the fire alarms in my apartment went off for two very long hours because we lost electricity. It was loud and unbearable so I simply went to sleep. They blared while I slept beside Joe. As long as I don’t panic, Joe doesn’t panic so yeah, he’ll curl up next to me and go to sleep, go get a few bites to eat and come back to bed like nothing is happening. Just as long as I don’t panic he’s calm. I didn’t panic that day and I didn’t panic Monday, so Joe did quite well.
In therapy Dr. D and I discussed how I still respond like a survivor. I respond to get through it then my body crashes and I have to sleep. Some people get through a trauma then break down and cry. I go to sleep for a very long time.
The day finally ended when I sent the CNA home an hour early, wet and cold from the day’s events. Then I went to sleep. The next day the apartment office manager sent a letter around that was clearly a show of annoyance. It appears that she had to go around to all 138 residents to individually tell them to evacuate. That wasn’t the problem. The problem was that some told her no, they weren’t leaving. She had to tell them it wasn’t a drill and that the building was really on fire. They refused to leave. She moved on to others in the complex who prefer a fire-free lifestyle. She was so mad that they told her no. Then one guy decided to take out a 55 gallon drum of trash during a fire evacuation. Someone bumped into it in the pitch black and it went everywhere. He stopped to pick it up but the manager wanted to be clear that a live fire evacuation is NOT the time to take out your 55 gallon trash can to the dumpster.
What a day. So, if for some reason you didn’t hear from me for the last few days, this is why. It’s been crazy. I was already in a terrible flare up with very, very high anxiety. But as we all know, when it rains it pours.
There is no fire or water damage to my particular building. The lights went off one more time for a very short period of time. Joe is doing well.