October was National Fire Prevention Month, and while researching the topic for an American Red Cross blog post I stumbled upon a website called "The Burning House". The site's creator asks readers to "balance practical against valuable and sentimental" by considering what they would take with them if their house were on fire, and then photograph their selections and submit to the site the photograph along with a description of the items.
I thought this sounded like an interesting exercise, especially if a cap - say 10 - were placed on the number of items allowed. How does one decide between clean underwear and a toothbrush? Photo albums and the camera that captured the images? The watch your mother gave you as a child and the earrings your husband gave you on your wedding day?
I meandered through every room in my house, weighing the - per the site's creator - practicality of some items against the value and sentiment of others. In the end, I narrowed my list down to these 10 items:
I selected these 10 items assuming that all members of my family were safe.
1. Purse. Including my purse feels a little like cheating, as it contains a number of items I'd otherwise need or want to include (Will's epi-pen and inhaler as well as my wallet, medications, and sunglasses), but the purse itself is technically just one item so it requires just one slot on the list.
2. Laptop. I could live without and eventually replace my cell phone and tablet, but my laptop? Absolutely not. My laptop is an extension of me - it connects me to my friends and family, is essential to my career, and guards the stories and photos I want to remember in the years to come - and losing it in a fire would be devastating.
3. "Important Documents" folder. My practical side insists on including the folder in which I store all of our birth certificates, social security cards, marriage license, etc.
4. Emergency Preparedness Kit. My practical side also insists on including my Emergency Preparedness Kit (not pictured), which is stocked with food, water, a first aid kit, a weather radio, flashlights and batteries, an emergency blanket, a tarp, maps, duct tape, and activities for the kids. Including the kit feels similar to including my purse, but since I carefully packed the kit more than a year ago and it's contained in one carryable tote, it only takes up one slot on my list.
5. Winnie the Pooh. My mom and dad gave me Pooh Bear after we were in a car accident when I was just a month old. I slept with him tucked under my left arm nearly every single night until I graduated from college, and after that I kept him close by in my nightstand. I love him.
6. Roar. In times of sadness, struggle, and/or uncertainty, Will's beloved Roar gives him comfort.
7. Blankie. Hallie never attached to a stuffed animal or lovey the way Will did, so I'd bring her blanket to help her feel safe and secure.
8. Jewelry (in the little blue zipper purse). I'd bring the diamond earrings Tom gave me the night before our wedding, as well as two rings and a pair of earrings I had made out of a diamond and sapphire ring that once belonged to my Grandma Hallie.
9. Wedding photo. I don't have a digital copy of my favorite photo from our wedding, so the framed print would be clutched in my hand on my way out the door.
10. Camera. I'd bring my camera, not because it's expensive or because I consider it a "must have", but as a symbol of starting over and the joyful experiences to come.
What would you bring?
The Red Crosser in me absolutely must mention that in the event of a fire, you should immediately get out and stay out. You should never delay evacuating or reenter a burning building to collect your belongings, no matter how valuable they are to you.