What You’d Lose in a Fire

Yesterday, just before 6 p.m., Logan and I heard sirens approaching our office building. Sirens are a very normal thing to hear on the streets of New York. We hear them every day, and Logan once asked me what the sirens meant.

“Something not good,” I said. “When you hear sirens, you don’t think, ‘Looks like somebody’s living today!’”

The air conditioning in our office is insanely cold, so we had the window open, and I poked my head out to see what all the fuss was about.

“Hey, that fire engine stopped in front of us,” I said. “I wonder if something happened at the Starbucks.” Logan shrugged.

“Oh, hey, there’s a second fire engine here,” I said, pointing. “And a third! Where are they running to?”

They were running into our building.

“Hey guys, the alarms are going off, and we’re evacuating,” one of the other people in our office said. “Grab your things.”

“Stay low, and go, Logan!” I said, remembering our fire drill.

I grabbed my wallet and phone, got my laptop into my bag, and was considering what else to take on my desk when Logan shouted, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING? YOU ARE GOING TO DIE IN A FIRE.” We left.

We quickly got into the stairwell and made it outside, and found the other people in our office to make sure they knew we were accounted for. Since it was the end of the day, we didn’t stick around too long to see if there was an actual fire on one of the floors, but I’m back in the office today, so I’m guessing there wasn’t too much damage, if there was any at all.

I got home and thought about what I’d lose if there was a fire in my building. Furniture. Photos of friends and family. Clothes. Dishes. My laptop. If I were given a choice, I’d try to save my laptop and my phone so I could call people to let them know I’m okay, but I could theoretically lose everything, and it would suck, but at least I’d have my life (also, I have renters insurance). Everything else could be replaced. Maybe not those photos, but I can close my eyes and remember them.

During my freshman year, a bunch of people gathered in the living room of our dorm late one evening, and did that thing everyone does in college where we ask questions and go around to get an answer from everyone. We’d play “Never Have I Ever” or “Would You Rather” or ask “What would be the one thing you’d grab if your house was on fire?”

I’ll always remember what one of the girls said: “This question … is not a question for me. When I was 10, our house caught on fire, and we didn’t have time to grab anything — we only had time to make it out alive. We lost everything, but we kept our family. We kept our family.”

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