This is Chase and Savanna – brother and sister. Chase is ten and Savanna just turned five. In September of this year, they experienced a night they’ll never forget. Here’s their story, told by their grandmother Tina.
Chase and Savanna were over at my home one weekend with the rest of their extended family. It was a special celebratory time as my daughter was getting married to her fiancé the next week. They planned to exchange vows in the backyard and so all the grown-ups were busy at work mowing the lawn, trimming the hedges, vacuuming the floors, and doing all the other cleaning and tidying tasks grown-ups do before important people come over to the house.
Chase and Savanna helped when they could, but they were more concerned about the fun glow-in-the-dark bracelets they were playing with outside. (Remember those??)
As day began to turn to night, they begged their Mom and Dad to stay the night with grandma. Of course, Mom jumped at the chance to have a night “off” and told them they were welcome to bunk at my house. They climbed into the spare bedroom and were soon fast asleep, Savanna clutching her teddy bear to her chest.
While the little ones dreamed of fairytales and pirate ships, my adult children and I stayed up to watch movies. It was a full house for us – my daughter and fiancé were saving up for a new place; and my other son and his girlfriend had moved in temporarily too. I just loved having everyone there in the home together as a family and ready to celebrate our newest addition the following week! It was a glorious time of celebration.
It wasn’t until around midnight that my drowsy eyelids proved to be too heavy and I went to bed, leaving my kids up to turn everything off before they went to sleep too.
Just moments after I fell asleep, I heard my grandson yelling for me. I turned over to look at the clock and saw I had only been asleep for about 30 minutes. Knowing the kids had been at it for quite some time, I assumed they were in need of a drink of water, bathroom break, or (quite possibly) a referee. I walked down the hall, opened the door, and felt an enormous, black cloud of smoke pour out of the room – the room my grand kids were sleeping in…
The smoke was so thick that I could barely see my hands in front of my face. I started to panic thinking my grand kids were in that room. I called out to my children, “Fire! Fire! Everyone get out!” I was able to grab Chase as he was nearest the door. Through the haze it was so difficult to see and little Savannah was so small. Fortunately, Chase was able to make out the slightest green glow. He realized the glow was from the glow-in-the-dark bracelet she had been playing with earlier in the night. She had put it on her teddy bear before falling to sleep! She held it tightly as I pulled her to safety.
Everyone gathered on the lawn watching the home and our belongings burning in the fire. I stood there with my children, glad everyone had made it out safely. My son immediately dialed 9-1-1. Moments later, his phone rang back and it was a volunteer from the American Red Cross. Frances Amison arrived on the scene along with Myndi Milliken and Gladys Ofori-Atta. They instructed me to join them in the Emergency Response Vehicle as they provided me assistance and connected my family and I with resources. I was able to hold it all together, until I saw the Red Cross volunteers. When I got in that truck, it just all suddenly seemed real. The Red Cross volunteers provided us with a debit card for us to purchase food, clothing, and other necessities for my family including a hotel night stay that evening.
Firefighters and investigators believe the fire was caused by a faulty exhaust fan. Likely, the fan overheated or caused an electrical fire. Over the 25 years I lived in the home, I collected hundreds of items (including LOTS of Christmas decorations) and some of them were stored in my attic. The investigators told me that the decorations and boxes housing them insulated the fire and allowed it to spread much more quickly.
The next day, my daughter, one of the firemen, and myself were walking through the home, reviewing the damage. Burned out homes are quite dark even in broad daylight, so we took flashlights with us to the scene. Inching down the charred hallways, my daughter flashed the light into the room where the fire had begun. Amazingly, the light bounced off of a small porcelain angel perched atop a singed filing cabinet. We gasped in shock. Everything in the room was burnt to a crisp, but the angel remained utterly untouched. Even more amazing, the angel had been stored safe and sound with other Christmas decorations in the attic.
It was as if the angel was watching over my grandchildren and somehow able to bring Chase out of his sleep to call me. He later told me he was dreaming about his uncle picking on him and was calling to get grandma to come help. I’m certain that a small miracle was at work in saving my family that night.