Fire Alarm, False Alarm

Fire Alarm, False Alarm

For most of us, our home is our comfort zone. The place where we feel safe. Where we hang our hat and keep our most valued possessions. Each day, a new memory is created and our home encompasses and defines our story.
For the third consecutive week, fire whistles and pager tones invaded our weekend relaxation. Again, my heart skipped a beat as my husband and our volunteer fire fighters had to risk their lives fighting a structure fire. Not only are they trying to save a building, they are trying to save a piece of someone’s life. Maybe, a piece of her heart.

St. Gertrude ChurchMy husband jammed his feet into his shoes and threw on his coat. He paused long enough to kiss me goodbye and tell me the fire was at my church. He grabbed his keys and headed for the door.

My heart sunk. I told him to be careful before he got out the door, and as the door shut, I told him to save my church.

Memories of what the church meant in my life bubbled to the surface. I grew up attending Mass there, and it became part of my life, the people an extension of my family. Now, fire could potentially destroy that. I prayed that the fire fighters would keep that from happening. As I prayed for a miracle, I realized, fire is a thief. It comes in uninvited, and it steals what’s most precious to us. Fire isn’t a person, nor is it evil, but it is alive; it lives and breathes our air and takes from us. It needs us to survive.

My church is part of my life, and I wasn’t prepared to lose it. As a Firebaby, I was baptized into the faith community. The fire engine horns and racing engines brought me back to the problem at hand—the fire. The scanner tones went off again and the dispatcher requested the fire department and stated the location of the fire.

It’s never good when you hear them repeatedly calling for the fire department to respond. It’s especially upsetting when they call for a second and third department to help fight the fire. I imagined the worst, and prayed for the best. Images of my first communion, the dress, veil, and gloves, walking down the aisle with my male counterpart, hands folded in prayer, flashed through my mind. The memories progressed, taking me to a confirmation candidate in her green suit to sitting beside friends at the baccalaureate service.

The scanner went off again and my memories flashed forward. Our wedding, our children’s baptism, and their first holy communions were all held there. Even the recent Christmas decorations were in the forefront of my mind.

Fire TruckAnother thought occurred to me. While I was fretting about what I could possibly be losing, the fire fighters were putting their lives on the line to save my church. There is more to a fire than the material loss. There’s potential for human loss as well.  (Tweet This)

As all these things crammed my brain fighting for attention, the phone rang. It was my husband. He called to tell me it was a false alarm, a faulty ice meter detector. There was no fire.

My heart soared; my prayers were answered. The church, my church, was safe, the fire fighters were unharmed, the community wouldn’t lose an historic landmark. The fire alarm was a false alarm.

In writing, many of us forget that our characters need to have something they care about. Even a villain cares about something. Maybe it’s his mother, or world domination, or maybe she loves kittens, or wants to save the whales. Caring makes us human.

What do your characters care about? What passion will your villain have that makes us see his human side? I’d love for you to share your thoughts with us.

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