Monday, May 01, 2006
The Story Unfolds
A letter from Martha, my sister.
Thanks for all your kind thoughts. Fortunately we only sustained facial damage. The awning, sign, outdoor lights, and cracks in a few of the windows right around the main doorway were the only real damages we took. There was a little smoke and water damage to the stock but really minimal. No one got hurt in the store. But the guy that died was a good customer named Fred. He who used to date a former employee of ours. We kind of thought it might have been him because the staff recognized his car. He was a pretty decent guy, a pain in the ass sometimes, but really a friendly person. So it makes the whole situation that much sadder that we knew the person who died.
The accident and fire started about 6:30pm. It is usually a pretty busy time as people shop on their way home from work. I was just out of the store by about 5 minutes. I was walking Camille (my granddaughter) up the hill. I'm so glad we just missed the explosion. I was almost to 21st St when the helicopter was hovering overhead. I knew something was up but didn't know what. When I got to the top of my stairs I turned and saw the smoke from the fire. As I open my door, my phone is ringing, and it's Chris, my brother, calling to say he just saw on the news about the fire and it looked like it was in front of our store. My heart dropped out of me about then. I ran to the attic and sure enough, it was the store. I tried calling and got no answer. I called Terry on her cell and she told me a car had exploded and the awning was on fire and they were getting all the people out over the fence into the Mix (Uncle Burts) a bar off our alley. I felt so useless. I wanted to be able to do something, but with Camille, I couldn't leave. So I called the Insurance company and got the ball rolling there. Ernie had been out and was just coming home when he saw the smoke. Terry got ahold of him and he came home and walked down to the store. He couldn't get through the police line at first until he found a cop he knew. Terry called back to let me know that her husband Richy's car was one of the ones torched. That is probably the biggest loss this family sustained. Ernie, Terry and Richy stayed at the store until about 9:30 getting as much of the water up as they could. Terry and Richy did a great job of keeping everyone calm and the situation under contral. Actually all the employees were really cool and worked together to make sure everyone was out safely. We evern had to help some of the people in the apartment next door as they were trapped upstairs in their apartment. So they got onto our roof and we let them in and out with everyone else.
We spent Friday cleaning and going through everything to assess our losses. The staff really pulled together as a team and the store hasn't look this shiny ever. They were so good. But it sure does open your eyes at times like these. We realized we don't have a good evacuation plan. We were lucky that there were no elderly, or wheelchair bound in the store at that time. We only had to get one dog over the fence. But at least we had that route. I was worried about the computers since I hadn't done a take home backup in a long time. If the fire had gotten the upper floor, my office would have been toast. Its times like these that make you give life a lot more respect. You just can't take anything for granted. You have to enjoy ever day as if it could be your last. And I think we must have an angel on our shoulders. All the times we've had anything happen to us, they it never seems that awful. We must be doing something right.
So take care, be good, and thanks.