Lessons from a nearby fire

The last day of August 2017 started like any other normal day. Around noon, we heard some people panicking outside and thought there was just another fight or drug raid. Then someone said there was fire! The smell of burning was so strong and filled the air. I panicked myself and quickly gathered things that might be important: my folder with vital documents, ATM cards and IDs, my laptop, wallet, and stuffed a few changes of clothes into a couple of backpacks. Good thing my father was at home, and we loaded our stuff in the car just in case the fire reaches our house.

I ran outside and saw the largest fire* I ever laid eyes on, just four houses away from ours. Then I panicked like never before. I was alternately praying and making a mess of my room, trying to think about what to save. Then I pulled out the large plastic box filled with my diaries since 2008. Then I thought that it was really useless and hauling this heavy box into the car isn't a matter of life and death. My struggling-for-survival brain told me to hurry, and who cares if it burns, it's the past anyway!

Then one last look at my room, I just realized that I had kept so many useless things. My room would be the worst fire hazard in our house, with all the books gathering dust and unfiled paper for school (both for graduate studies and teaching). There was a moment of regret at losing these things I spent time choosing and buying, but getting away from danger was more important at the moment. Then the fire trucks started arriving and there was some sort of relief, but our father instructed us to leave, he'll just take care of what's left and leave if the fire ever reached the house.

We left the place and walked fast in a daze of adrenaline rush, and went to our grandmother's house in Jaro. About an hour later, my father called and told us that the fire was cleared, our house wasn't affected, and we can go back home. I was so relieved, but at the same time I told myself to be more prepared next time for unforeseen accidents. I looked carefully at the things I have and asked myself if I really need them. We may accumulate a lot of things, but in the end we don't really need them all to live.

After the fire, we did an overhaul of our house and got rid of things that may only be fire hazards. We always hear that we shouldn't get attached to our material possessions, but there's nothing like a real disaster that will force you to make a choice and it made me realize just how much we are defined by our things. I realized that the real key to non-attachment is asking myself "Will this be important enough to be saved if there's a fire?" If not, then I should be ready to let it go.

*note: just to give you a clue just how high the fire was, many tall trees there were burned and what remains are dead leafless trees that are now mostly standing coal. Good thing no one died in the fire, though several were injured. Here's the news article from Panay News. 

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