I did this because I realized I take things for granted.
We all have moments of realization sometimes. You may call them epiphanies or moments of clarity. Whatever the label, they all bring to light something that you never quite considered before.
I hosted a party at my house last night. About 40 or so good friends came over, we had a good time, and things ended at around 3am. I was in bed by 3:30, intent on sleeping in to my hearts content, without any inclination that I’d have more than one awakening later that morning.
It was about 7am when I heard the sirens. Being that I live in a city, it’s not unusual for the Boston Police and Fire Departments to make their presence heard at all times of the day and night. This morning, though, the noises were coming from right outside my window. Combined with the sunlight pouring through my inadequate blinds set-up, I knew that this was clearly the end of my scheduled sleep-in, just 3 1/2 hours after it had begun. I climbed out of bed and peaked through the window to see 3 fire trucks idling in the middle of the narrow residential street, lights flashing, but not very many fire fighters. They seemed to be further down the street, out of my line of sight. It didn’t seem serious, so I went back in bed.
After 20 minutes or so, I couldn’t sleep, so I got up and wandered down the hallway to a window that would give me a better vantage point. I was not prepared for what I saw.
Massive clouds of smoke were billowing out of the area where a house used to be visible just 3 doors down from my place of residence. “Holy sh*t” I shouted, and I ran into my room to grab my camera, my slippers, and my coat. It’s moments like these that remind me that I truly am passionate about photography and photojournalism. I had one thing on my mind, and that was to document this event to the best of my ability. I knew I was probably one of the few capable photographers in the area with the proper equipment, and it was up to me to preserve this moment for newspapers that may be interested.
I stumbled down the stairs in my pajamas, threw my coat on, and ran out into the snow. The massive headache that was attempting to exact revenge on me for the drinking from the night before was neither here nor there. I was a man on a mission. I shot from as many angles as I could, but didn’t get in the way of the 60 or so firefighters and EMS on the scene. The whole house was engulfed in smoke and the BFD was attempting to quell the disaster with multiple hoses on both sides. After shooting what I could, I went inside to see if I could find out any information.
I learned that the house had 7 residents, all of which were currently hospitalized. Two of them were forced to jump from a second story window before emergency responders arrived on the scene, and one of them was in critical condition from the fall. I later learned that one of the jumpers called their mother before even calling the authorities. This scares me into thinking that this person probably thought they were going to die, and felt it more important to call their loved ones, rather than make a feeble attempt at calling for help.
All of this didn’t truly hit home until I went over to the house later in the day with one of my housemates. The fire had long since been put out, and some contractors had arrived to board up the windows. I wanted to grab some shots of the aftermath before everything was closed up, so I brought my camera along for the trip. The basement was flooded with at least 2 feet of water from the hours spent hosing the blaze. Mini fridges and kegs could be seen floating around aimlessly. The first floor was charred from wall to wall, floor to ceiling. Not a single piece of furniture remained, with the exception of a desk in one of the street-facing bedrooms. This desk was almost completely untouched, with some partially burned textbooks and an unscathed Macbook sitting among the rubble. The third floor was gone. Before leaving the area, my housemate pointed out the house next door, where all of the vinyl siding was sagging and charred from the extreme heat of the flames.
The whole neighborhood is very shaken up. We don’t often see such sights up close and personally, and I don’t think we appreciate the gravity of a situation where lives could have been lost. It wasn’t until I saw the burnt out shell that stands where that house used to that I came to realization that these BU students probably lost everything. Clothes, computers, cameras, food, shelter. It was all gone. In the blink of an eye, everything that they held near and dear was taken from them by a force that not even 60 trained fire fighters could stop. Luckily, BU is providing housing and meals to the students until the situation is sorted out.
I am genuinely sorry for the people that had to experience this. The cause of the fire is still unknown, but regardless of the situation, no one deserves to decide between jumping out of a second story window or burning to death. I implore everyone who reads my blog to check their smoke alarms and plan an escape route in the event of a fire. God forbid something like this should ever happen to you, you’ll be thankful you planned ahead.