Wednesday, 9 January 2013

My Experience Of Goodwill (continued)

This blog post is continued from The Season Of Goodwill Part 1

The fire took hold of the house very quickly.  By the time the fire service arrived, we had heard windows smashing and could see smoke pouring through the house and roof.  A quick risk assessment and initial attempt to tackle the fire resulted in more fire crews being called in from neighbouring counties to help. There was no quibbling.. this was, by anyone's description, a major house fire.

We were informed that when it was next safe for the crews to return inside (they had to withdraw at one point due to the ferocity of the fire), that on the basis that they were not confident of being able to save the house, they would perform one salvage mission - we could direct them to something we would want to save, if possible. Thanking my lucky stars that we had started putting precious items of our parents (Mum's wedding dress, some letters between our parents from their "courting" days, etc!) in a trunk to look through properly at a later stage, we asked them to try and bring the trunk out for us.  They did...and the Lead Fire Officer's response was "right, now we need to do what I was actually referring to, and what most people would've opted to save first - sensible things, like perhaps phones, car keys and money"... a surreal moment where we all had a chuckle, and where I will always appreciate the understanding of how precious that trunk was/is to us, and the risks taken in order to save it.

In between the salvage operations and the continuing effort to keep the fire under control, there were several occasions on which the fire staff had to retreat.  At one point, the lawn mower petrol cannister exploded in the shed next to the house - this explosion was ferocious and I recall seeing the explosion and hearing it in the distance, which was an incredibly bizarre experience.  After this, a friend of mine contacted me, on my Facebook page, to say she heard the explosion from the other side of the village.

But while this was happening, all around us neighbours, whether known to us or not, were helping out. From those who ran hose-reels up and down the road for the fire service, or directed traffic; the neighbour who I'd barely met at that point, who took in the twins; the people who realising I had no shoes on, or jumper, or any nappies for the children, or blankets, brought their own for us. Who gave us hot drinks; who told us to call them immediately if we needed anything.  Who stayed there by our sides, long after the strictly needed to do so.

The fire crews remained at the house until the next morning, and whilst the four walls of the house were still standing, everything inside including the roof had either been obliterated or wrecked by heat, smoke or water.   All of our parent's possessions and so many of ours too, including every family photo ever taken. It was, I hate to admit, a fairly bleak reality.. it probably would've been at the best of times, but in the recent losses, seemed even more so.

We'd been instructed to ring the insurers the night of the fire, but were only able to make a guess as to who the insurers might be.  A phonecall to who we suspected might be the right insurers required the policy numbers to start the procedure of making the house safe.  And we had no idea of the policy number.

Once we'd managed to ascertain who the insurers were, we then discovered there was a problem with the insurance - our names had been put on the insurance by Dad's solicitor, but the insurance not changed into our names fully, so that it was our own insurance.  There was confusion, concern, and the start of several interviews and visits from forensic teams, loss adjusters, insurance personnel and so on. It was a relief that all who visited very quickly told us that there was no suspicion of foul-play, but that we equally needed to run through the events leading up to the fire in order to try and ascertain the cause. I found myself repeating the story of the previous 6 weeks to various professionals over and over again, loathing each time being forced to reveal the private details of my heartbreak to strangers.

Meanwhile, the kindness around us continued - it took several days to make the house safe in terms of simply boarding it up and securing it; during this time my brother and I stayed and slept in a small caravan by the side of the house.  One of us slept on the floor; one of the bed - we took it in turns. But while we were doing this, neighbours gave us spare keys to their own homes, brought us flasks of hot water, and family bought us food.

We were still without basic clothes and necessities.  I did drive, at one point, to a supermarket, to try and buy the twins some pj's.  But once there I completely forgot the sizes of H and L, and after staring in an exhausted daze for some time at the choices, I returned back to the house with nothing, unable to concentrate, focus or find the energy to make a decision. Where ordinarily I might have purchased several items in different sizes, the logistics, at that moment, of buying pj's for the children was just a step too far for me to cope with.

But then...then came the next stage of the goodwill shown  to us.  Parcels and packages started arrived at the house, containing teddies for the twins, or clothes.  Two friends from an inspiring, hugely supportive and kind larger group of friends arranged a collection, and co-ordinated other friends sending boxes of clothes, toys and essentials, not just for the twins, but for us too.  A friend sold cards and gave all the money she made to us; my work colleagues had a collection for us to treat the twins to something special (which later became a trampoline, once we were in new temporary accommodation).  People rang, texted and showed us all so much love... including one amazing friend who texted me virtually every day for almost a year, despite me often not replying to her (you know who you are!).  Another friend did an exhausting sponsored swim, donating some of the money raised to a heart charity, in memory of Polly.  And there were more, many more acts of kindness, generosity and support shown to us.  Where they could, so very many people around us, whether known, or not known personally by us at that point, helped us out.

We'll skip forward now...10 months later, the repair work was complete - the house had been saved, and it was a wonderful, wonderful day, the day we came back home.  In my mental state around that time, I'm not entirely sure that I said thank you enough, in fact, I'm absolutely certain that I didn't, to all the amazing people who helped us out, when we truly needed it.  What I do know, and hope they do too, is that I and my family are so incredibly grateful.  It was a difficult run of events to deal with and get through, and it was only, I'm absolutely sure, because we had such incredible support from those around us...we are very, very fortunate.  The process of dealing with events is ongoing... and you know, I'm a "normal" person as in, I have pride & dignity... I would've never ever shouted out "I need help"... yet somehow, when I needed, and at points depended entirely upon, was there, in abundance.

So you see, goodwill isn't just confined to a season.  This, I can confirm.

To each and every one of you who helped us out, whether practically or mentally, and who showed us goodwill.....

Thank you, always. XX