December 13, 2008 was not a good day for me in terms of material
loss, but a glorious day in terms of what is truly important on a
previous six weeks, the members of my production company (Nine Moon
Productions) had been living with me and working on several
projects. These included a complete overhaul of my website, and
laying the foundation for several upcoming projects, including my
return to stage work in a production of Alan Bennett's The History
Saturday morning at 10 a.m.
to return to their home for the holidays. As it
was a sunny, cold and windy morning, I turned up both heating
thermostats from 68 to 72 degrees and went out on the wrap-a-round
porch for a quick smoke before breakfast. I was wearing flip flops,
and a short sleeve shirt. I walked to the front of the house to
finished my smoke, and walked back to the side door that opens into
the dining room.
As soon as I
opened the door I felt the heat and could smell smoke. I
immediately walked over to the door that opens into the kitchen and
was hit by a blast of acrid black smoke and intense heat coming from
the rear of the house. The dining room became full of blinding
smoke instantly, and I rushed out the door back onto the porch. A
lady in a passing car had slowed down and I screamed for her to
call 911. She said she had just called from her mobile and for me
to get "the hell away from that house!" I was unable to even grab
car keys, glasses, wallet--anything but me in sweat pants and
My neighbors were
at my side instantly and I went with them to their house where one
by one, my entire family began to arrive along with five fire
engines (delayed a crucial few minutes by a train). I was unable to
grab even one piece of art. The finest art was hanging and all
was lost. I lost everything I had collected over the past 30 years. As
members of The Bessemer Historical Society began to come from all
over the immediate area, I broke down and wept.
some of my archival photography was stored in a part of the house
that sustained the least fire damage. It was soaked, but
like to take a moment to thank with all my heart the Police and Fire
Departments of Bessemer, AL, as well as the complete strangers,
family and friends who comforted me then, and continue to do so.
I have realized what a blessed life I have and how this could have
been so very much worse. No one died. Even the Koi settled at the
bottom of the pond and not a single fish died.
I have learned
what really matters over the past two weeks. I am so thankful to be
alive and uninjured and not in a burn unit somewhere. Now, its on
to 2009 and my plans are to rebuild on the same lot. I wish
everyone the very best in the year ahead.
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