On March 16, 2017, there was a massive fire in downtown Raleigh. An entire city block was incinerated, as well as great damage to 9 other neighboring buildings. Many people were displaced from their homes. Fortunately, only one person was injured, and not seriously.
All this takes me back to May 1, 1957. I was 10 years old, my brother was 7. My mother was out of town at a conference and my dad was at work, when the fire alarm rang. Dad, being a volunteer fireman, responded to find that the fire was at our house. Burning tires on the railroad tracks below our house had ignited the roof of the house outside my bedroom window. By the time the fire was out, my bedroom, as well as most of the back of the house, was completely destroyed. I was in school and did not see the fire, only the aftermath.
My family was homeless for more than a week. We stayed with grandparents, cousins, and friends, but not together. I had lost everything, all my toys, clothes, and books, including 6 library books (which the library forgave). Also lost was the family piano. I practiced at friends’ houses. My teacher at school held a drive in the classroom, and many classmates donated clothes, toys, and books for me.
We eventually found a place to call home while our house was rebuilt. We were all together again and stayed there until Columbus Day, October 12. Then we moved back into the upstairs portion of the house, with a makeshift kitchen on the back porch. We had no heat. We moved into the downstairs portion of the house on December 24, and celebrated by putting up the Charismas tree. How my parents managed to maintain such normalcy is beyond me. I finished 5th grade and started 6th grade in the midst of all this.
One special act of kindness from that time has stayed with me to this day. A few days before the fire, Mom and I had gone to a department store with our best friends. While the moms shopped, my friend Linda and I discovered stuffed Lady dogs from Lady and the Tramp and fell in love with them. Our moms bought them for us. Mine was lost in the fire. One morning, while staying with Linda, while we were homeless, she presented me with her beloved Lady dog. I told her to keep it, but I remember that kindness to this day.
Carol Gosselin – OLLI Member