Up in flames


My sister’s room later in the day after the fire had been put out.

Emma Mackey, Staff Writer

As a high school student, it can be difficult to find your place in a society that will either deem you a child or expect adult responsibilities and mannerisms. Many students find themselves getting their first jobs and planning an entire future while still feeling young and incapable of actually living on their own in the few years to come.


Being a high school student myself, I understand the stress that comes with having to make a decision about where I was going to spend the four years of my college life, whether I wanted to be in college for all four years, and what exactly I wanted to do with my life. I felt unqualified to make these decisions and wondered whether I would be making the right one. I feel so far from an adult that it’s hard to swallow the fact that I’m only a year away from legally being one.


November 25th is a day that showed me not only that I am old enough to handle situations that I never wanted to, but that when you take away all of the overthinking, kids do have the ability to make adult decisions. Waking up on November 25th I was still unsure of the pile of college letters on my nightstand; by noon of that day I would feel shocked and afraid of the unknowns, but I would understand that I am qualified to become an adult and I would no longer doubt my own decision-making.


My sisters room was on fire when I woke up. She wasn’t in it, but I remember the moment of panic before I realized that she wasn’t simply burning up with her flower-printed comforter. The flames were in every corner of her room and I didn’t take more than five seconds to decide that it was too large for me to put out on my own. This moment would spur a series of decisions that would allow me to see just how able I am, even in situations where panic has the ability to control everything.


The first of the decisions was the one that had me ushering out three middle-school girls, still groggy from sleep, panicked by the sound of the alarms and the crackling fire as well as my voice as I pushed them outside with their phones,  yelling, “One of you call 911! Tell them our house is on fire; I’ll be right back!”


They were all afraid; I knew this because they were crying and cold and they had all forgotten their shoes, but nevertheless I turned back around and ran back into the house. The second of my decisions happened as I stood at the bottom of our stairs looking upstairs at the doorways that led to each of our rooms. Flames were reaching out of my sister’s room, grabbing at the hallway carpet and licking at the ceiling. In that moment as I stood looking, watching the black smoke curl around the lip of the staircase, I decided it was too late. Even though I knew in my heart that there were things in those rooms that each of us would grieve over after the destruction, I decided that I had to let it all go.


The third of my decisions is one that I didn’t realize would be as important as it was and included what I actually decided to save from those flames. I don’t remember thinking; I remember grabbing file boxes and hard drives and carrying them outside in my arms, balancing the laptop on top of them. These were things that our family couldn’t lose, pictures of me and my sister as we grew up, titles to the cars and the house we had just bought five months prior.


From that moment, I sat on the concrete and watched the smoke billow out of the windows of our home. I heard sirens and answered questions and the shock set in. As realization punctured the cold November air and the adrenaline wore off, we all cried over our things and our new house, but everyone was okay, all of the important things were safe.


People always ask the question, “If you were in a fire what would you grab?” It’s not something that anyone really gives much thought to at first. My phone. My cat. The money in my sock drawer. Some people say things like, “I’d put the fire out. Then I wouldn’t have to save anything.” But what if by the time you listen to the alarm your sister’s whole room is up in flames? What if, like her, you don’t have a chance to save anything?


Something that I’d never considered was that in the moment, I would become an adult. Instead of grabbing my iPad or grabbing things off of my sister’s floor in the one spot where the flames hadn’t reached, I went down to the first story and grabbed hard drives. I was more adult in that moment than I’ve ever been in my life and I can’t even remember thinking about it.


I don’t think that what I realized as a high school student just beginning to make decisions about my future, was that I am capable. In high stress situations, I do have the ability to make the right decision without a thought. In the worst kind of scenario I made the right choice. As I go into the process of planning my future this is what I’m holding on to.