As an American living in the UK, I quite enjoy the fact that July 4th is business as usual. I don’t have to deal with fireworks or fire.
Don’t get me wrong, as a kid I used to love fireworks. In fact, I looked forward to 4th of July. For years our family would either go to block parties, our street would have parades where the kids would decorate their bikes with red, white and blue streamers or we’d go to William’s pond for a massive function with bbq and games of horseshoes. I loved sparklers, Chinese flowers and those silly worms that stained the sidewalk.
Unfortunately, 15 years ago my fondness for 4th of July ended. It was a super hot day so my boyfriend (at the time), Brian, and I decided to go to San Francisco to see the fireworks over the bay. We had a fantastic time, although traffic coming back was a bit of a nightmare. Little did I know, the nightmare was just beginning.
Since it was late, I’d fallen asleep in the car on the way back and woke up just as we pulled around the corner to our street. I couldn’t really fathom what I was seeing. The street was filled with fire engines and smoke. I think I jumped out of the car and ran straight to a fireman to find out what was happening. “Maybe our apartment is fine” kept running through my head. That wasn’t the case – I could see flames coming out of our windows. I think I experienced every emotion possible in a matter of seconds, I was a bit hysterical and in shock.
Thankfully, Brian kept calm, but I think he was feeling the same inside. We’d lost everything. In my hysteria, I remember sending a fireman up to our 3rd floor apartment to look for a diamond necklace that my mom had given me for my 18th birthday. In hindsight, that was a really bad idea. It was dark and dangerous, but that saintly man appeased my whim and went to look for it. (I did eventually find it melted into a Tupperware container and it’s good as new thanks to the jewelers). I remember the drive to my parents house at three in the morning, knocking on their door to say that we had no where to live and waking up the next morning realizing that we didn’t even have a change of clothes.
Losing everything sucks, but there are some amazing people who helped us rebuild our lives. In addition to our families, Brian and I had an amazing network of friends and co-workers who donated furniture, clothes, books, and even helped us get a fantastic apartment. This is the reason I don’t like 4th of July. Thanks to some arsehole insurance scammer trying to burn down a building, I lost a lot of photographs and memories. For years after I would get really anxious on the 4th, I could never really relax. It’s been 15 years and it still bothers me. But as Brian said earlier, if it wasn’t for that fire we wouldn’t have moved to I Street, I wouldn’t have made the decision to move to Seattle, I wouldn’t have met Martin, wouldn’t have moved to the UK and wouldn’t have mini G. It’s crazy to think how insane events in your life lead to where you are today. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
I’ve never written about the fire or how it affected me. There’s a lot more to say, but I’ll leave it at that. It’s hard to believe it’s been 15 years. But 4th of July, I am coming to terms with you and one day, I’ll look back and laugh. Until then, I’ll enjoy from a distance and eat chili and cornbread to honor the independence of the USA.