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It was mid August in Fort Collins, Colorado. My family and I were preparing our home for an open house. We planned on moving at the end of the summer. My dad was currently in the process of searching for a job and that process came with a lot of interviews all over the country (and some out of the country). I remember this time to be very stressful as I was unsure of my future. All I knew was that I was going to leave my home and my friends. It was Friday night and the open houses were scheduled for the weekend. The house was immaculate. I'd never seen it that clean. My siblings and I had strict rules from our parents not to make any messes. As I carefully went to bed, I fell asleep knowing I would get to hang with my best friend tomorrow while the open house was going on.

Around 4 am the fire alarms went off. Startled awake, I lay in my bed annoyed. My dad usually changed the fire alarm batteries late at night, so I figured that was the reason. As I tried to fall back asleep, I heard loud talking down the hall. I realized that my mom and dad were arguing, so I got up and left my room. I walked down the hallway to see my parents in the loft standing outside the laundry room door. I sat on the couch and listened to the conversation. I was sleepy, but I heard a couple keywords; “smoke“ and “fire extinguisher”. Confused, I watched as my dad opened the door and out came a cloud of smoke. My mom ran downstairs to try to find the fire extinguisher. As she was doing that, I ran to my brother Henry's room to go wake him up. My mom yelled to us that our fire extinguisher was expired. That's when the panic set in all of our eyes.

As I was blankly staring at the crack under the laundry room door, I blocked out all noises. The light under the door turned from white normal lighting to a dim dark light. That's when I knew we had to leave. My dad opened the door once more, and we saw fuming flames flooding out of the dryer. My dad slammed the door, and we all knew to run out the house. I ran to my room to grab my hamster, and we all rushed out the front door. The feeling of terror rushed through all of us as we sat on our driveway watching all the windows. My mom called 911. Once the firefighters arrived, the whole neighborhood woke up to see the “house on fire”. Our neighbors took me in for water, but all I remember thinking about is our house burning. From that moment on, we stayed in a hotel for around four to five months.

This moment changed my awareness towards firefighters and how much they really do on a daily basis. I always knew they helped our country for the better, but when they personally helped my family, it really proved that they do amazing work without hesitating. It was such an amazing feeling inside of a traumatic event to be cared for by complete strangers. We just met these people, yet they were doing everything in their power to keep us safe and save our house. I am so incredibly grateful for how they helped my family that day. It also made me think more about what is important in life. You always play the game “what three things would you take if your house is on fire”, but in reality you don't have time; you just have to take what's most important to you. For me, it was my family.

© Grace Zoll. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team and we can put you in touch with the author’s teacher.