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My father and I have a routine every Saturday evening – after dinner, the two of us watch a movie.  We have very different interests but there are some films we can agree on, and they’ve become are our go-to movies.  I enjoy this habitual activity, not only because I love movies but because I love spending time with my dad.  On July 26th, 2013 this routine ended up saving my life.

Well, sort of!  That Friday evening, the apartment building I lived in caught fire.  Friday night is pizza night in our family.  From work I went straight to my sister’s house for dinner and before my dad left to return home he said, “If you feel up to it, stop over and we’ll watch a movie.”  It was a Friday, not a Saturday – out of our routine, but my mom was out-of-town so the two of us had to stick together.  So, when I left my sister’s around 8:30pm I headed directly for my parents’ house.  I felt like watching one of those “classics”, a film that we’ve seen time and again and is always entertaining.  Shortly into the film, we heard a plethora of sirens and said to one another, “That sounds bad.”  Little did we know just how right we were.

Halfway through the movie, my sister called the house line, frantic to reach me.  “Ohmigod!  You nearly gave me a heart attack.  You didn’t answer your cell,” she cried.  “Dad didn’t answer his cell.”  Then she proceeded to inform me that my apartment complex was on fire.  We paused the film and spent the next hour searching the local news websites for details and trying to verify which particular building(s) were up in flames.  By the time it was confirmed to be the building I lived in, my nerves were shot and my head spinning.

There was nothing I could do that night.  I was safe.  I had a place to stay.  I had food, shelter and company.  I thought about my laptop, about the novel I’ve been working on for the past 3 years.  I gasped when I recalled that my grandmother’s stereo/record player was at my place.  My mind raced thinking about all the CDs, DVDs and musical theatre programs I’d collected over the years.  I am an entertainment girl through and through.  It’s key to my identity.  To know that so much was likely destroyed…I couldn’t fathom it.

“Come on,” my dad instructed.  “Let’s finish the movie.  It’ll distract you.”  And that it did.  I got wrapped up in the action of the film, one that I’ve seen and enjoyed many times already.  By the time the movie ended, I was exhausted.  Dad gave me a great, big hug and made me smile.  I cried myself to sleep that night, overwhelmed with what was lost.  With each realization of another piece of memorabilia gone, I felt embarrassed and ungrateful – they were just things and could be replaced.  I was alive and well.  I had a roof over my head, food to eat and a safe place to stay.

I woke up ready to face the day.  I needed to know what the reality of the situation was and handle what I could control.  I’ve always been inspired by characters who, when faced with adversity, look inside and find strength.  This was my life, my story to write.  And if I needed to start from a blank slate…so be it.  My dad told me that day, “Keep moving.  Keep busy.  If you stop to think, it will eat you up inside.”  He went with me to see the damage, kept me company and was the one to call my other relatives so that I didn’t have to.  While my father didn’t physically save my life, he did provide comfort, companionship, and enough space to pick myself up and dust myself off.  And for that I’m eternally grateful!

P.S.  Now that I have to rebuild my collection of theatre programs, I’ve decided that dad will be the first one I take with me back to Broadway!!!!

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