Smoke in Stone Oak
Seeing thick clouds of black smoke rolling toward your house is haunting, and packing up one's house in preparation for it to be burnt to the ground is even worse.
In suburban San Antonio, a wildfire spread throughout one of the most popular neighborhoods just in time to devastate my family's labor day barbeque plans. Although the flames were nowhere near the size of the big blazes in Bastrop, the fire was moving quickly.
My aunt, uncle and cousin called my father panicked because their house was bordering the flames. They started to gather their belongings, but a fireman yelled at them to drop everything and literally run. Don’t drive, run.
With nothing but the clothes on their backs, a cell phone and three dogs, they made it out of the subdivision, lungs filled with smoke but untouched by the fire.
My father picked them up, and we regrouped at my family’s house. Because of the panic-stricken mode my extended family was in, we decided to pack up as many of our belongings as we could before the fire made it to us.
We began grabbing photo albums, yearbooks, clothes and other valuables from around the house.
I’m sure we looked like chickens with our heads cut off, running back and forth from our rooms to our cars. I even packed a television, which in retrospect, of course, was ridiculous.
My father took the initiative of knocking on our neighbors' doors to alert them of the situation. “The fire is about a mile away, but could be coming to our neighborhood soon,” he told them.
There are five of us in my immediate family: My parents, two sisters and me. We each filled our individual cars with our belongings and began to evacuate the neighborhood like a parade of people prepared for the apocalypse.
All five cars drove to my grandparents' ranch outside of the city, where we waited. We watched the news, I Tweeted heavily, my sisters kept up with Facebook, and the rest of my family ate. Stone Oak, our neighborhood, was trending nationally for a while. Unfortunately it was because of a natural disaster, but still — trending!
After a while the news looked good. My aunt's house appeared to still be in the midst of the fire, but our house was going to be fine. An hour later we got word to head back to the city. Our next door neighbors had stayed behind and wrote on my sister's Facebook wall “all clear.”
As it turned out, our house was untouched, and my extended family’s home had sustained only minor damages (mostly water damage, because of the firefighters.)
It was almost embarrassing when all five of our cars drove back to our house to begin unpacking our massive suitcases. It was, however, a good test run. If the apocalypse were to come tomorrow or the world blows up in smoke on Dec. 21, 2012, my family will be prepared — television and all.
I am grateful that the firefighters were able to contain the flames, and grateful that my aunt's house was in better shape than we thought it was going to be.
What troubles me is thinking of those who have lost everything. No one in my neighborhood was in that situation, but my heart goes out to those in Bastrop because, for a moment, we knew how it felt. Pretty much helpless.