Black plumes of smoke littered the sky and my nostrils filled with the smell of burning. It was not hard to find the fire, but it was a little tougher to get close enough to snap some good photos.
Approximately 10 minutes earlier a colleague contacted me and asked if I was near enough to check out a fire. I was, so off I went to snap some photos of my first fire.
The reporter in me was driven to find a way to get closer to get those stellar photos and I did. It wasn’t until I had a few good photos and was feeling confident about having something good for the front of the following day’s paper that it dawned on me that I was drawing excitement from someone else’s misfortune.
A garage/shed had burned to the ground taking the lives of five dairy calves inside. The owners also lost a lot of equipment including two four wheelers, a snow blower and a lawnmower. As I gathered this information for what was shaping up to be a “good” story of public interest, shame and reality set in.
I felt shame that my success stemmed from the death of five baby animals and $70,000 of damage to the garage owners. While I felt relief that the home had been spared, acquiring minimal damage to some siding I also felt disappointed in myself for being proud of the photos I had taken.
The fire started less than 20 minutes before I arrived and the entire structure had burned to the ground in that sliver of time. Watching the firefighters sift through the rubble is when the reality settled in. This family lost not only possessions, but animals. In less than 20 minutes.
Fire knows no discrimination. It knows no boundaries. It just burns.
That was the first time I really started to second-guess my profession. It also got me thinking about the important things and what I would hate to lose. At first I thought of my new shoes and my softest sweater, but then I thought of the people that matter most in my life and the memories I have made over the years. Of course, there are a few possessions I would hate to lose, but at the same time I’m happy to know they aren’t what matters most.
As a twenty-something trying to figure out where my next step is, if my lease will mess me up and all the other stress-inducing obstacles that accompany early adulthood it’s nice to take a step back and appreciate.
No, I’m not saying the the things that stress me out are unimportant. I’m just saying others things are more important. Like all the times my mom mailed me letters just because she loves me or the time my roommate knew I was feeling down and staged a civil war between Brisk bottles on the floor of our dorm room just to make me laugh. Or that time a friend woke up extra early on the morning of my birthday to bring me hot chocolate before my 8 a.m. class and those times my sister drove out of her way to pick me up for a get together in the opposite direction because I didn’t have a car. People can be pretty great sometimes. Cherish those memories. Remember what matters.