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…All The Children Are Gone

June 14, 2010

Photo from My Ballard Blog

This Saturday morning in Fremont- the joy that came with our late-coming summer weather suddenly and irrevocably changed to despair. Seattle’s deadliest fire in nearly 40 years took the lives of one adult and four children.

Within minutes the fire gutted a two story townhouse, and one mother lost two sons, a daughter, a niece and a sister.  Their bodies were found in a bathroom; they probably ran there to try and escape the thick black smoke that filled the home.

Witnesses at the scene have given the media alarming accounts of what they saw. Fire Chief Gregory Dean agrees there were problems; the first truck to respond was unable to get water on the house. The second dropped a hose on its way to the scene.  The delay may have been les than three minutes, but as Chief Dean said on Saturday, “every moment counts.”

Could those three minutes mean the difference between life and death? We’ll probably never know.

Neighbors tried to console the distraught mother as she wailed on the sidewalk, overcome with shock and grief.

Saturday night the family gathered with community members to support and grieve with each other.

Many just want to know how this could have happened.  The answers will come with time, but they’ll never stop the overwhelming pain that comes with losing a child, let alone 3.

My youngest son was born early the morning of October 6th 2001. 3 years and 8 months later, the morning of June 14th, 2005 I stood at his side, my hand rubbing over his leg as he quietly took his last breaths and died.  After cancer, and chemo, and stem cell transplants, lengthy operations, radiation, loss of hearing, sight, and mobility, his life was over.  The machines I’d grown so accustomed to hearing 24 hours a day were silent.

It has been 5 years since that day.

It seems like 5 minutes.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing that can remove the pain that comes with losing a child.  Not friends, family, God, therapy, tears, talking or writing.  Nothing.  Time goes on, sure, life goes on whether we want it to or not…but everything, everything reminds me of his life…and his death.

People tell me to “just move on and let it go”, and I’ve had people tell me to “just focus on the good”, it’ll be okay, you’re stronger than you know”.  Many insist “time” will heal the “wound”.  That seems so ridiculous.  I can tell you with all certainty, five years later, time is not the great healer many make it out to be.

Losing a child is like having a part of yourself ripped out, leaving a massive hole never filled.  I’ll always have the wonderful memories, but nothing can cure the pain of that loss. Not just emotional pain.  No.  It’s a physical pain.  A pain nothing can touch.  A pain no other human being can feel- unless you’ve been a parent and lost a child.

I knew my son was going to die because he had terminal cancer.  It didn’t make it easier, but I knew it would happen.

I cannot imagine the sudden shock and helplessness that comes with watching a home burn, knowing my children were inside. I can’t imagine what it would be like to fight to run inside, through the flames and smoke while strangers are holding me back, or the moment of realization…all the children are gone.

So to say the family has my condolences doesn’t feel adequate because it doesn’t change anything.  It does nothing to take away the pain.  But it’s all I can do.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Siobhan permalink
    June 14, 2010 8:35 pm

    Your writing about your son you lost has gripped me at my mother’s core. I feel a horror when I think of the mother who has lost her beautiful childen in this tragedy. I send her my love. Even knowing it can’t help.

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