Sep 12, 2011

God was in the Firemen!

Today, we shared this story along with a lasagna meal with Cal Fire Station 20. 
Why am I not surprised, we were the ones who were blessed!

By Donna L. Young

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13 NKJV)
I was four-years-old when I visibly witnessed my first tragedy. We didn’t really know the family who lived in the apartment over across the blacktop road. But the married couple had two small children, a boy around my age, and his younger baby sister. It appeared to us that the woman was a stay-at-home mother and her husband worked with the local law enforcement. We saw the childrens' grandfather visit their home regularly.  Sometimes, while the mother was out running errands and the father was at work, in their absence, the grandfather provided childcare for the little boy and baby sister.
I remember the weather being warm and sunny that day. I had just returned home, midday from preschool as my mother pulled a freshly baked cake from the oven. Our home smelled delicious! She intended for us to return to preschool later the same day, and participate in a school fund-raising event. My older sister was still at school for several more hours.
 That day, the grandfather was working on fixing his car outside their apartment. Before long, he went inside to rinse his hands. Somehow, fumes from the gasoline on his hands blew down the hallway and ignited the wall mounted heater a few feet away. The heater instantly exploded into raging flames! 
I remember the smell of burning smoke immediately pouring through our apartment. I asked my mother if the cake in the oven was burning. Then suddenly, the grandfather ran towards our apartment screaming, “Help me, please help me!”
I watched in horror as the grandfather attempted to douse the flames that were consuming his own arms. My mother calmly called the authorities for help and then immediately ran with the grandfather towards the engulfed apartment. As they approached the wildly burning apartment, the young boy started screaming and ran towards my mother and his grandfather. He was on fire, from head to toe!
Even so, my mother scooped up the terrified boy and returned to our apartment. She sat him down on the coffee table directly in front of me and told me to reassure the scared little boy that he would be okay. She commanded me, “Do not to leave his side!”
I obeyed my mother and sat glued to the couch. I felt powerless and terrified as I watched the child writhe and scream in agony. My heart ached with compassion and I wanted desperately to help. Yet, I could barely make eye contact with the child. My mixed emotions overwhelmed me!
Meanwhile, my mother had quickly rushed back to the neighbor’s apartment to rescue the baby girl. The grandfather directed her to the backyard of the home. Then he pointed his shaking finger to the outside of a room where he had thought the baby would be.  My mother heard screams of a toddler. She yanked the screen from the window and peered inside the smoky room. Yet, all she found was a crib with a small doll. The baby was not there.
Then, the screaming of the baby stopped. Frantic, my mother yelled at the grandfather, “Where is the baby?”  They ran to the outside of another window, but by the time they reached the second room, hot and raging flames were consuming the apartment.
Just as my mother started feeling the sinking, helplessness of not being able to reach the baby, another neighbor appeared, grabbed a hose, and forced it into to my mother’s hands. My mother sprayed water at the walls in the direction of the screams.  She thought, “Where is the fire department?” Then, immediately, out of nowhere, a fireman appeared by her side, and nudged her out of the way. She watched as another fireman pulled the baby from the burning apartment. Simultaneously, several firemen entered our home and began to administer help to the terribly hurt, little boy. Both children were rushed to a nearby hospital.
Days later, we visited the hospital to see that small boy again. We waited in a long hallway while the boy came to see us. He walked straight to me. I wondered, “Why is he wrapped from head to toe in that long stocking?” I remained quiet while my mother spoke to the other adults and we left the hospital with many other unanswered questions that day.
Later, one day, we toured their apartment. It was literally reduced to ashes. The pungent smell from the fire lingered in the air for weeks, as though it was trying burn the tragedy into my memory.  I remember that the only belonging still standing was the family refrigerator.
Over the years, the memory of that fire would invade my mind as I awakened in the middle of the night with horrible nightmares. Sometimes my mother would unknowingly rekindle the pain by retelling the story. Sadly, for much of my life, all I carried regarding that painful fire was the suffering and confusion it caused deep within me. I questioned, “Where was God in that fire?”
Then in 2008, I endured another harsh trial. This time, I surrendered to Jesus Christ. When God began to heal my traumatized heart, I started to wonder, “Have I allowed the pain and suffering of past trials to rob me of opportunities to see the presence of God?”   
With new hope, I now realize God’s saving grace surrounded my family during that difficult day. I see how each detail displayed God’s presence to me. God used my mother to urgently respond to the cries for help and safely place the scared and hurting child in our home. Next, God sent a neighbor to help my mother the moment she began to grow helplessly drained and weary. Meanwhile, God protected my mother from the hungry flames as she attempted to rescue the baby from the burning apartment.  God even kept the flames from harming our own home.
Furthermore, God instantly responded to my distraught mother’s question, “Where is the fire department?” God Himself appeared in the firemen who altruistically gave of themselves despite the possibility of laying down their own lives. They acted kind to strangers. That little boy was treated with compassion and mercy. And, while they were nearby, I felt safe, loved and cared for unconditionally!
Perhaps God rescued all of us that day. I wonder now, could He have saved us for a greater purpose?
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