Lessons from an Emergency Evacuation
On a recent morning, as my husband, Mark, and I were each working in our home offices, there was a forceful pounding on our front door. Clearly, this was no FedEx delivery or even an aggressive solicitor. We opened the door to find a firefighter telling us we needed to get out of our house now, immediately, without delay; workers digging a fence two houses up from ours hit a gas line and gas was leaking. Our noses confirmed the problem as soon as we stepped outside.
When you have one minute to evacuate your house, not knowing if you’ll be able to return, or if there will be a house to return to, what do you take? We grabbed our phones, wallets, and dogs. That’s it. Neither of us thought about photos or memorabilia, as much as we love those items. Without any discussion, it was clear that if we had each other, our dogs, and a means of communication, identification, and payment, then we would have all we would need to rebuild, if necessary.
We joined our neighbor evacuees amid the many dogs playing and barking. One kind neighbor who lived outside the evacuation zone invited Mark and me in for coffee in her warm house. We gladly accepted her invitation.
Two hours after the door pounding, the gas leak was contained and we returned to our home. All the professionals – the police, firefighters, and gas company workers – did their jobs masterfully. Mark and I were free to resume our lives.
This minor life interruption heaped a major load of life lessons and gratitude reminders:
- We were alive. Every day there are explosions and eruptions all over the world, and our situation was contained before the unthinkable could occur.
- We had everything we needed. Yes, we have some art we love, photos we cherish, and irreplaceable memorabilia, but none of that compared to our safety. Stuff is stuff, and people and animals are love.
- We live among kind people. In our incredibly troubled world, it is easy to lose sight of the goodness of most people. Our neighbor who invited us into her home served as that reminder.
The first thing I did when I came home was to go to my office and write this. My two dogs fell into a deep sleep from our morning excitement. Around my office are photographs and memorabilia that I love, but when that split-second moment of decision occurred, my mind went only to my loved ones, not things.
We don’t have to wait for an emergency to be grateful for what – actually, who – is most important in our lives. Each morning when we awaken, we can practice this deeply profound sense of gratitude. There is no amount of stuff that comes close to our loved ones. For that, I am intensely grateful.