We Were # 316.

Photo credit: Carrie Snyder, The Forum

I hate fire – always have.  I think it is because from an early age I had a healthy appreciation of its relentless, take no prisoners’ nature.  When I was fairly young my brother was playing with matches in the house and caused a fire in a tall built-in storage cabinet in our family’s home.  Luckily, I was a total tattletale and when I saw the flames I ran and got my mom and dad who were visiting outside with the neighbors.  All-in-all the damage to the house was fairly limited, but in that cabinet my mom had kept all our old school mementos, special papers, and awards and the loss of that really saddened my mom.  Later experiences with fire both in the first person and as an unaffected observer have only further cemented my view of fire.  It’s power to take everything in its path so quickly frightens me tremendously.

Seeing the Galleria in flames and knowing that the apartment that Cory, Noah (my sons) and Alex (their roommate) lived in was being decimated was nauseating and horrifying.  Even worse, knowing that their accumulated pets were surely going to perish while we could do nothing – it sickened me…I hate fire.

Now we are left with only what the fire left and the label that fire reduced our family to in this discussion – we were  #316.  And with every label there is a story…our story is we lost family in the form of pets (contrary to what you may have heard).  In total we know of three cats (Mya, Jack and Clancy), one bird (Sammy) and many very large and beloved fish (Oscar being the best-known and longest living) that perished.  Our story aside from the pet loss though is like 60 other stories…60 other units who lost so much.

I have spent my time since the fire modulating between taking care of Cory, Noah and Alex’s needs and working with community members trying to set up some avenues for donations for the Galleria residents.  My daughter Sarah and her long-time boyfriend Dusty both took off work yesterday to drive the boys here, there and everywhere to address the most immediate issues facing them. All three boys stayed at Sarah and Dusty’s  house as my house (as regular blog readers know) was flooded a couple weeks back and is in its own state of chaos.  The thing is, in our family – like other families -when these things happen to one of us – they happen to all of us.  So Sarah, Dusty, Cory, Noah and Alex traversed the town yesterday dealing with the new reality and while the overall reality of what the fire took was horrible, the love they felt back from the community that has risen up to support the Galleria residents has been phenomenal.

I just want to give a few quick props to a small sampling of the folks that I interacted with yesterday or that I heard about yesterday based on my family and other residents’ interaction with them.

Thank you to the firefighters who went in and out of those apartments for residents again and again to look for the things the folks asked them to search for.  Sarah tells me they were very kind and gentle with the residents and made what was an unbearable task (recovering the small remnants of these folks’ lives that remain) – somehow a bit more bearable.

Thanks to all the folks who have been stepping up to donate everything from contact lenses to clothes and shoes to furniture to housing – you name it – folks have thought to offer it.  The Facebook page has been filled with offers of items, help and general support.  I am so profoundly impressed with folks’ generosity.  Special thanks today to Foot Solutions who gave a number of displaced residents new shoes (and fairly expensive new shoes at that).  My daughter Sarah took the boys there and said that the folks at Foot Solutions were (using her word and emphasis) – PHENOMENAL!!!!!!!!  Also, props to NDSU for stepping up and spending the time with Cory and Noah (both NDSU students) to ensure that they had everything they needed to move forward with their studies (they lost all of their books, laptops, supplies, assignments, etc.)  In particular, my personal thanks to Kim at the bookstore and Janna Stoskopf, Dean of Student Life,  for the level of commitment they showed to my sons as students.  This level of concern for their well-being made me very proud of my institution – as a faculty member, alumni and parent of current students.  Other local colleges are making like efforts as well.  Affected students, staff or faculty should reach out to their institutions if they have not already.

Thanks to Pastor Eric and all the great folks at the Shepherd of the Prairie Church who stepped up to the challenge of accepting and redistributing donations to the Galleria residents.  I visited the church yesterday and they have a great set-up for the residents.  A note though that yesterday they were definitely in need of additional clothing items for men.   Please do bring items in good repair to the church if you have them.  The needs are diverse and we would rather have more than less.  And on that note, thanks to Robbi from U-Haul who offered and personally delivered storage containers for overflow donations and bigger items.  The church is now equipped to accommodate a fairly large number of donations.

On a related note thanks to businesses and companies like Vogel Law Firm who are making concerted efforts as a collective to assist the Galleria residents with donations of items.  I always appreciate it when I see business evidence a commitment to community like this.

Thanks to the folks who have been so thoughtful to extend offers of help to me personally on my mission and to help my family as well,  Lance Akers (one of my new Extreme friends) worked with me  in the early hours of Tuesday to help design a way to create a donation fund and get the info pushed out – which by the noon hour was solidified in a partnership with the United Way of Cass-Clay and Lutheran Social Services.  Thank you so much to both agencies for all the scurrying they did yesterday to bring this to fruition and for the press releases, interviews, etc.  and other items they were able to take care of in regard to the monetary donations for Galleria residents’ long-term recovery – you were awesome!  Thanks to Jeff at Crown Trophy who called me early on Tuesday wanting to donate $100 to help in whatever way it needed to be used – I was incredibly touched by his thoughtfulness.  Also thanks to the folks like Val and Jim, friends of mine from California, who donated to the United Way fund as a show of support.  Of course, thanks to my comrades at the university and in my department who have been so helpful and thoughtful – particularly Jessica Jensen and Kate Ulmer who were my go-to people yesterday as I was trying to piece together things.

Mostly thanks to the F/M community for the support it has shown the Galleria residents so that they know they are not alone – as a mother of two of the residents I appreciate that more than words can say.  People often ask me why a California girl like me stays in this area (13 years now) when I could go other places and given the fact that I am clearly not rugged (and indeed, some days I am downright sissified).  After I deliver some semi-sarcastic quip I tell them quite seriously that the bugs and the weather are easily overlooked when you realize how fabulous the sense of community is…after all, isn’t that what we all want in life to be connected to something bigger than ourselves?  I get that here and I thank you F/M community for ensuring that the Galleria residents get that too…they feel your love and support – please keep it coming.

Day four hundred and sixty-four of the new forty – obla di obla da

Ms. C

5 Responses

  1. Tam

    My thoughts are with you and your family! I didn’t realize both Noah and Cory lived there. I will say a prayer for them today and will keep you all in my thoughts! If I can do anything from VA….please let me know!

  2. Tam

    I didn’t realize both Noah and Cory lived there. My thoughts are with you and your family! I will say a prayer for them today and will keep you all in my thoughts! If I can do anything from VA….please let me know!

  3. PrairieWoman

    If there is anything you need let me know. If I don’t have it, I will find someone who does. You are a remarkably resilient woman and mother. Your children are very lucky; and the the community.

  4. gary beauchane

    We need fire sprinklers in these buildings to stop this property damage and the loss of life. Thank God nobody was injured

  5. Valerie

    Oh, Carol – it was the very least we could do. You are doing the heavy work. And, I hope you are taking good notes. As awful as it is, this is a keynote, publication, story that needs to be told.

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