Dillon Collins: What We Lose in the Fire…

Many of us live our lives in relative peace and harmony. The lucky ones have no memory of the pains of war, hunger, poverty or oppression. 

Truthfully, we live a charmed life in Newfoundland and Labrador. Gas prices may be high and Costco might be moving to Dannyland, but it could always be worse.

I think that’s why many of us –  present author included – tend to take our lives for granted. We float from day to day in routine – going to work, preparing meals, taking care of our families or loved ones, enjoying leisure for leisure’s sake. It’s the type of life where we don’t know catastrophe until catastrophe is on our doorstep. 

Catastrophe Calling

For the residents of Kenmount Terrace in St. John’s, catastrophe came calling on the afternoon of July 9. Large scale fires are the type of things you expect to find cropping up from youngsters meddlin’ in an old abandon shack out in the boonies, or from Joe Somebody tossin’ an un-snuffed butt in the brush. It’s not the thing we associate with the suburbia of the Avalon.

But there it was – flames, smoke, danger – smack dab in the middle of what could have been a disastrous sultry windy day in our provincial capital not seen since the great fires of 1846 or 1892. Perhaps that’s a gross exaggeration, but we’re not long removed from the tragic blaze that ravaged Fort McMurray. It’s not beyond imagination.

Thankfully, the amazing efforts of fire personnel kept damage to a minimum. As of press time I wouldn’t be able to put a price to quantify physical damages, but the peace of mind that comes with a close shave can’t be measured in dollars and cents.

It got me thinking about those what if questions, the ones you don’t need to think about until you NEED to think about them. What would you absolutely have to save? What is the bare-bones of your life that needs to go in a pinch? I’d imagine that’s different for all of us. 

What’s Most Important?

Antique picture frames, cherished hand-me-downs, flat-screen Samsung tv’s, that one trophy you’re so proud of. I found myself glaringly aware that, if crisis came calling today, it would leave me with more questions than answers, one of which is the need to reassess what’s most important in my life.

My family has been affected by fire, both in life and in loss. I grew up with an ingrained sense that nothing should be taken for granted, most importantly time. Perhaps I lost sight of that somewhere along the line, being a millenial in the age where life is at your fingertips.

I had a friend who lost his home and possessions in our senior year of high school. We banded together and donated our entire ‘safe grad’ fund to help mend what can never fully heal. That’s the kind of thing you do, or at least the kind of thing we Newfoundlanders do, when push comes to shove, I’d hope.

Having the good fortune to be born of modest means, and by God’s good graces, avoiding crippling setbacks, you forget that nothing is certain and everything could go up in smoke in an instant – literally and figuratively. 

It makes you reflect on the important stuff. Somehow the petty nonsense of the nine-five doesn’t seem to matter. What we lose in the fire can be much more than the material.

Dillon Collins, The Herald’s Staff Writer, can be reached by emailing [email protected]

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