Fire and Ice: Ice Storm 2022
“We are all fine. Our house is not.”
I have texted, emailed, and repeated those words in my heart since Thursday. In this moment, as I sit in shock with my back to a fire in this warm place that always waits for us, I am writing my way toward feeling.
Thursday, I stood on the street for three hours wearing wet gloves with freezing rain hitting an umbrella, hoping I would not watch my house burn down. One of the firefighters said with sincere nonchalance that it was a “small fire.” But any fire in your home does not feel small.
It feels fierce.
It feels overwhelming.
It feels terrifying.
Half an hour before we evacuated, I stood at my back door, hearing branches hit the roof and watching sparks run across the main power line. I smelled our internet connection burn. Greg, my husband, heard the harbinger in the abnormal furnace sounds, and Jason, the best HVAC technician, quickly realized the magnitude of our problem. Kids out the door, leashes on dogs, grab a coat, get out.
Wait until the first fire truck arrived. Wait until they realized this electric problem hit our neighbors’ houses too. Wait until there were four fire trucks. Wait as they turned off everyone’s gas. Wait as they realized a fire was smoldering above the bathroom where the extra electricity caught the insulation on fire. Wait as a fire hose snaked through the front door. Wait as they decide to cut all the power lines to the house.
While this was going on, our children and dogs were ensconced in the safety of our neighbor’s home, watching cartoons and eating her food. So unaware were they, that when it was all over, they asked if we could go home.
Not yet. Not tomorrow. But eventually.
We do still have a house. It smells burnt, looks worse for wear, and lacks the literal energy that gives it light and heat. But it is standing. We got to go back in and pack bags. Nothing tangible is gone, but the uncertainties are mounting. How long until we will have electricity? Or heat? When can the gas get turned back on? When can I scrape the charred insulation from my bathroom? And when can we fix the hole in the roof that came from an icy branch and had nothing to do with the electric fire? Are more branches coming down on our home – a home that feels more fragile than it did before this storm?
It could have been worse. It could have ended in ways so horrible that my brain will not let me think of them. I’m glad we’re safe.
But it’s still bad, and I’m sad and overwhelmed. We’re not at our home, the place that is safest, coziest, happiest. We don’t know when we can go back. We are navigating a new terrain of insurance and contractors. We are so very tired.
Tired, sad, overwhelmed, grateful, warm. The tension is uncomfortable, the shock will linger, but it is, finally, how I feel.
Caroline Mitchell Carrico is a native Memphian and, as a historian by training, she enjoys researching the city’s past and pulling it into the present. When she isn’t reading and writing, she can often be found cheering on her kids’ soccer teams.