When I moved out of my parents home, for the final time, it was into a high rise building not far away. I'd never lived in an apartment before, and hadn't particulary wanted to be in a highrise of 22 storeys. Not with my fear of heights. But such was my desire to live away from the parental units that I took this apartment with a balcony that I swore I would never use. I was glad to be able to afford to live on my own and happily transferred all my meager belongings in the elevator up to the 20th floor. I was able to move everything in my father's Omni and my brother's station wagon. This was a long time ago, obviously! My friends all exclaimed about the wonderful view I had over the lake and of the sunrises and storm clouds and foliage changing I would see. I was glad I didn't need to buy curtains. Being so high up had at least that advantage. As I recall, I even had the energy to take my exercise on the stairs - though I'm not certain how many times I actually walked UP.
My first night, I plopped myself onto the bed, exhausted but slightly exhilerated about having my very own first apartment.
Then the fire alarm went off.
I hadn't considered that. Not entirely sure what was expected, should I stay put? go downstairs? and if so by stair or elevator? I thought, I'll just open the door and see what the neighbours are doing. They were doing nothing. The hall smelled a bit smokey. I decided on the stairs. Got to maybe the 16th floor when the smoke starting climbing up to meet me. Ran back up to the 20th floor and slammed my door behind me as if I was being followed. I remembered about wetting a towel and placing that at the bottom of the door to keep the smoke out. The fire alarm still blared. The trucks were screeching around the corner. Lights were flashing. The sky was dark with billowing smoke. I stepped outside onto that dreaded balcony and peered over the railing to see four fire vehicles, one ambulance, and flames reaching out through clouds of thick black smoke at an apartment way down to the left of me. I was so fascinated with watching the fire and the water hose and the trucks, I completely forgot about being scared of heights. Or of being scared of the fire.
Turns out it was contained to that one apartment. On the second floor. The one the previous tenants of my apartment had just moved into that morning before I moved in. A party with friends, a cigarette left to smoulder in the sofa.
I have been remembering this event of 28 years ago after seeing this article about an explosion at a highrise that has left 900 people homeless and a building possibly structurally unstable.
My old home.
This is Sunday's fire, nothing like what happened when I lived there.