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Fire on Our Street

by Julia Rosien

"When we do the best that we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another." - Helen Keller

INvisible Treasure by Manfred Mueller
Invisible Treasure
by Manfred Mueller
As we watch them carry a small child from the burning house, I am horrified. Minutes ago my husband and I had lain in bed listening to the faint sound of a fire alarm. A house around the corner is renovating, and they were having trouble with it earlier in the evening. We dismissed the noise as unimportant.

When I heard the roar of the fire trucks coming down our street, I knew what we had heard was real. Grabbing housecoats, we ran outside, barefoot, to the acrid smell of smoke and the blinking of fire trucks. We stood watching in horror, as flames licked the eaves of the house next to ours. Children and their parents lined the curb in pajamas as they whispered, talked, and pointed.

"There's still a baby in there," someone yelled, and I grabbed my husband's arm. Just as my mind began to contemplate the horrors of what was happening, the firefighters carried the baby to safety. We all moved a little closer, as we watched them kneel on the ground and resuscitate the child. A collective sigh went through the crowd as she cried. Our own tears empathized with the father holding his baby.

We had four children sleeping upstairs, and my husband and I decided to get the older two up, now that the family was safe. Quickly pulling sweaters on them and hurrying them outside, we explained that no one was hurt, but we thought they would like to see what all the commotion was about. My nine- and seven-year-old stood beside us, as the window fell out of the house and the flames shot ten feet above, licking the night sky. They held close, as they saw and understood the seriousness of what was happening.

Neighbors that I have not seen for weeks all stood together watching the horror of the fire unfold. "What caused it?" Of course, speculations unfolded around us, none of them confirmed. "At least the kids are okay." We all nodded in agreement, as we hugged our own a little tighter.

We stood there in the wet grass and damp night air watching as firefighters worked and police cars arrived. Not morbid curiosity, but concern drove us to stand freezing and chatting with each other in the middle of the night. We all live on this street, and though we may not see each other every day, we care. Even in our high-tech world, we still know how to form a circle. I know that for me, it was as if I was doing something now to make up for what I had not done earlier.

Had I acted any quicker, I still would not have beaten the firefighters and their axes to that bedroom door. I might have helped look after the other children, though, or been the one to call 911. Who knows? I do know that I did not act this time, and I will regret that decision for a long time. It's too easy to let someone else handle it. Next time I will act. I will not leave the calls of help for someone else to answer. Maybe next time I will be the only one to hear, and I have learned tonight the awesome weight of that obligation.

As I cuddle with my own children, today, I am very thankful I was not the only who heard the call last night. I am also very thankful it was not my husband screaming into the darkness because one of our children was trapped in a burning house.


Julia Rosien is a freelance writer and the mom of four children. When she isn't chasing the kids she can be found writing articles for (Informing, enlightening & inspiring parents and parents-to-be) or creative non-fiction in various regional publications. Her e-mail address is


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