Monday, July 21, 2008


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.


  1. Oh that's scary! I've never experienced this (touch wood) and I hope I never do. It's a good thing that it wasn't too close to you, it could have been worse. I'm glad you're ok.

  2. Yikes!

    Glad you were ok.

    LOL! I wish my old apartment had a balcony.

  3. Fires scare the hell out of me - I am just glad that you were ok.

    On the car boot sale front - I have other things to sell apart from books - Not quite sure how I have managed to collect so much clutter when I only moved a year ago and de-cluttered then - yikes I think I am a serial hoarder. Books sell okish at boot sales, so am hoping to off load at least half of my stock.... will let you know how I get on.


  4. This would give me one of those eerie "what might have been" feelings.

  5. It was a bit eerie. I have since learned that an older apartment building, especially one built in the 60's and full of concrete walls, is actually safe in the event of a fire. Each apartment is self contained and it is best to stay put. I have been through many fire alarms since, but never again a fire. And it was 18 floors down from me.

    This recent situation is much different and much, much worse. Thankfully no one injured.

    and Whim, I also wish your old apartment had a balcony.

  6. Wow. As someone who grew up in apartments my whole life before moving to Rochester, I can identify with what you went through. I grew up on the 29th floor of a 33-story building in a massive housing complex in the Bronx. My building alone housed 384 apartments. It was not uncommon to hear the fire alarms going off, usually because some kids would pull the alarm.

    One time though, there was a fire a few floors above me. We didn't have to evacuate, and there was no one in that apartment, luckily.

  7. Whoa, that building is jinxed.

  8. Sanna, I sure am glad that the fire early on turned out just to be a learning experience and nothing worse... Fire can happen so fast.. I've had a bad experience with fire and it has the power to devour!!


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