I'm not afraid of much. The older I get the less I am afraid of. My biggest fear is something happening to my children. Every time the phone rings, late at night, my heart goes into my throat and my blood pressure goes up. I can't imagine how it must be to have to deal with the loss of a child and my most fervent prayers each day and each night are that I will never have to find out.
I am also afraid of fire. More specifically, I am afraid of a house fire breaking out in the middle of the night. There are so many things that can cause fires. Electrical shorts seem to be a major factor and we have lots of wires running all through our house. I have heard that appliances can overheat -- even small ones -- if they remain plugged in all the time. Nobody smokes in our house -- or anywhere near it -- but we do burn a fire in the fireplace every night and even though we let it burn down before turning in and keep a screen in front of the fireplace, who knows what might happen if a big burst of wind flies down the chimney at the wrong time.
Plus, who is to say that I would smell the smoke or hear the alarm or wake up in time to get everyone out of our house if a fire did occur? Most of the time my lovely wife, Lisa, and I are the only two souls spending the night in our home -- unless you count our 11-year-old pet, Rachel the Wonder Dog, of course. There was a time in the not-too-distant past, however, when we would have teenagers sleeping upstairs and in the basement and anywhere else they could find to spread out a pallet.
So, yes. I am afraid of something happening to my kids and I am afraid of fire in the night. A local family realized both of those fears last week and my heart has been aching for the four children killed and the loved ones they left behind since I first heard the horrible news.
Reeba Glass is the mother of those children. She and her family had, for the most part, turned in for the evening when a fire broke out in their Pinedale Circle home at about 11 p.m. Tuesday night. I am under the covers by 9:30 each evening and I know I was deep in the arms of Morpheus when tragedy struck the Glass family.
Reeba's mother was downstairs at the time and was able to escape by the front door. Ms. Glass saved her 6-year-old son by dropping him out of an upper story window. Her four other children perished in the fire. Can you imagine losing four children at once? I can't. The children ranged in age from 8 months to 10 years. One had celebrated a birthday the day after New Year's. Another would have celebrated a birthday today.
Reeba Glass escaped from the fire that killed most of her children but suffered burns on 40 percent of her body. I know from experience that pain from a burn is as severe as pain can get -- but the pain from the burns will be nothing compared to the ache in Reeba Glass' heart for a long, long time.
This community has wasted no time in rallying behind the Glass family. Churches and other organizations have already begun gathering clothing and household items and toys for the survivors of the fire. A fund has been set up at Wells Fargo where folks can offer monetary support. A local funeral home is handling all of the arrangements free of charge. A joint memorial service will be held for the victims of the fire on Jan. 19 at Macedonia Baptist Church. Having lived in this community for three decades I would have expected no less from her residents than the outpouring of love that is taking place.
But long after most of us have forgotten what happened on Pinedale Circle on Jan. 8, Reeba Glass will still have to live with the terror of that fire and the grief of losing most of her family in an instant -- and it could have been any one of us.
I know we will all hug our own children a little bit tighter when we put them to bed. I hope we will all use this horrific event to remind us to make sure we have working smoke alarms all over our houses. There were no smoke alarms in the upstairs of the Glass home and the one downstairs was not working.
And I am certain that in addition to the material donations we might make to Reeba Glass we will add our sincere prayers that she will somehow, someway, some day receive comfort from her grief and ability to go on with her own life. We can offer prayers -- can't we?
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.