From a fire’s embers, we should seek hope

Published 8:40 am Monday, July 9, 2018

A Wednesday morning downpour at Arthur Square Apartments seemed appropriate, given the night’s events.

Three children — 12, 6 and 2 — perished in their apartment there shortly after midnight when a fire of undetermined origin broke out. First-responders tried mightily to breathe life into their young bodies to no avail; they died at the hospital.

The loss of young lives is always unbearable. Wednesday morning’s deluge, anguished and relentless, seemed to signal as much, as if God himself were voicing displeasure.

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The misery extended beyond the charred second-floor apartments and into carports below. There, Red Cross emergency workers, establishing a makeshift center of operations, tended to forlorn castoffs from other, nearby apartments. The entire unit was without power, their homes unlivable. Perhaps as many as a dozen families had lost their shelter to heavy smoke, to spreading flames, to the drenched aftermath of brave firefighters’ battle against fire in the night.

Neighbors stood solemnly in line, some in nightclothes, waiting to speak with the disaster-response crew. The fire alarm came at barely midnight; few had slept. A few feet away, rain pounded onto the pavement and taunted their feet, some covered only by slippers.

There were promises of short-term shelter, food, some clothing. The Red Cross almost always delivers in dark times.

But no one ever walks away from a fire whole. There are issues of insurance; few renters buy it. There are losses of possessions: Work clothes and cellphones and personal treasures. There is a need to know what’s next. Tragedies like these demand a new life plan.

For these victims, the misery had only started. This was day No. 1. But they had life. That’s a lot.

For the young victims’ families, there is unending loss. Photos of the children shared publicly lent proof these youngsters were loved and their lives held value. That loss will be shared by extended families, by classmates and friends.

Waiting in line, neighbors exchanged what information they possessed. The family was new to the complex, one woman said. Word was the mother had gone to the hospital that night with another child. The 30 or so people huddled under the carport shared their small universe of uncertainty, but despite their own misfortunes, they maintained first in their minds a respect and affinity for the children — Jayden Pollard, Brayden Handy and Brooklyn McCray — now gone.

There are few guarantees in life; we have no sure grasp on success or wealth or happiness. Some of us hold some hope that, at the end, a heavenly Father might draw us into his arms, heal our wounds, raise us up. We should ask that for Jayden and Brayden and Brooklyn.

We should hug our own children every night, too, and pray morning will smile on them always.