Firstly: I am all a-okay, my roomie is a-okay and our kitties are a-okay. And our apartment is FINE, save for some water damage (our bathroom is now the swamp we always dreamed it would be!) and some boluses (boli?) of ceiling. The apartments on the two floors above us, however, are not fine, and, judging by the sound of the apparent destruction above my head, are being gutted right now.
I went uptown last night to see a play by my friend Kenan. As I approached the theatre, my cell phone vibrated and I had a message from my roomie. It was quite calm and composed, considering the circumstances:
"Hey, Bex? It's me. Uh, our apartment is on fire."
I called him back, and he assured me that he'd pulled the kitties out and given them to our friend Smith, who jumped into a cab and took them back to his apartment so they wouldn't have to be in the cold. I jumped back on the subway (at 8 o'clock, the subway was sure to be faster than a cab) and the whole ride was a blur: I know I was listening to the Monkees, but I was numb, and I didn't want to think about the possibilities.
I do recall, however, allowing a brief bubble of self-concern to break the surface, and here's what I was worried about:
1) My computer -- not the object itself, but all the writing stored on the hard drive
2) My passport -- I'm supposed to go away in two weeks and what if it burnt up and I couldn't go?
3) My birth control pills -- what if they were destroyed and I couldn't take them and then my ovaries went haywire?
4) Battlestar Galactica -- OH MY STARS, what if our tivo were destroyed and we missed an episode?
Other than that, I tried to zen out about losing all our material goods. And I realized we never actually got the renters' insurance we'd discussed. As you can see, even in a state of shock, I clearly had my priorities straight: Writing, vacation, ovaries, Balactica.
I got off the subway and there were six or seven fire engines on the streets around my apartment. The buildings inhabitants (aka "our neighbors") were all huddled on the south side of our corner, and there were firemen (I'd say "firepeople" but I only saw dudes) everywhere. There didn't seem to be any flames engulfing the building so I started to calm down. My roomie told me how he'd arrived home after work just as people were shrieking and freaking out, and he'd pushed past them to get into our apartment, staying low so as to avoid the smoke, and pulled the kitties out from under my bed. Smith arrived at around the same time, so my roomie handed the kitties off to him, and both Smith and the kitties were in his apartment in the East Village.
We waited for a few hours while they continued doing whatever they were doing -- we lated found out there was a grease fire on the 3rd floor and the people threw water on it (NO! SMOTHER A GREASE FIRE! DO NOT THROW WATER ON IT!) and they'd freaked out and ran away and then the fire destroyed their entire apartment. We also have many bed-ridden invalids in our building, and the firemen broke windows and destroyed doors to get them out. Apparently the fire spread to the rest of the floor, and between the actual fire, the broken windows and doors, and the firehoses, there's lots of mess and unhappy people. But everyone's okay! One of the grease-fire guys burnt his hands, but no one was severely injured and everyone got out okay.
Eventually, they let us back in the building. The hallways and stairways were flooded and there was broken glass everywhere. We did a quick assessment of our apartment, and aside from the water-damage and drips, all was well, aside from the stench of smoke, the soot and the drenching of the bathroom. We jumped into a cab and picked up the kitties, brought them home and then started to kind of decompress.
Later on, I'll tell you about how our building is run by the Russian mafia, and our encounters with them, but we are all well and good, albeit shaken up. When I was kid, we went to see "Batteries Included" and apparently someone flicked a cigarette onto our lawn, and we returned to fire engines and a scorched front lawn. The firepeople (There might have been women on the squad, I dunno) put out the fire just as it reached the foundation, and our house and kitties were fine, except for the stench of burnt zoysia grass. But I was really, really scared for a long time about my house burning down. And so it was hard to sleep last night, because I was kind of once again scared about my house burning down.
And, oh man, we are so lucky. So so so so so lucky. And we are SO getting renters' insurance on Monday, and you should, too. Holy shit, you should. When your apartment building almost burns down, you definitely realize these things.