Sunday, December 16, 2007

When I wake it is 16 degrees out. I put on a wool, stocking hat knit by Nena five Christmases ago and before Grumps died, mohair mittens knit by Amanda when Aidan was a baby and I wrap my neck in a soft scarf knit by Lee the Christmas before Cole learned to walk.

This is how I stay warm and keep time, wondering how I'd know what happened and when without these things. I negotiate the icy streets of Gloucester making my way to work via the part of Middle Street that is not closed. Though my father-in-law has already given news of the fire, I am shocked when I see the burning temple and burnt apartment building. It's devastating--a life lost, people without homes, this time of year, ice stuck to trees, billowing smoke, skeleton of a synagogue and charred wood that was once an apartment building. I see people weeping in the street and others excitedly spectating because they don't know what else to do. There is a sad, displaced energy on Main Street that makes me wonder out loud: "What can I do?"

I step over soot frozen to bits of thawing ice. I walk around thick hoses lying in the road, careful not to step on them. When I arrive, my coat and scarf and hat smell like smoke--the smoke of loss, of buildings burning in the cold night and early morning, of tears and fear and flame.

I do the best that I can at the store, but all day I am thinking about the people who have been hurt by this fire. Around three I walk home, the fire still going. There is more soot. There is smoke. And when I arrive at the house there is an e-mail. It tells of how she moved from the 90-year old building just two weeks ago after living on the fourth floor for four years. She had been unable to get used to the idea of a fire and no way out, understandably so.

I think about fires and ways out. I think about Dave holding baby Galen and Mac missing Amanda's father and Amanda missing them all.

Quietly out loud I say "I love you" to all of the people I love. I say it again. And then again. I want people to know.

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