The dog started barking below our window.
The scent of smoke wafted into our bedroom.
We looked out the windows in both directions as far as we could, I checked the rooms for candles and electronics on fire, Justin closed the windows.
I opened the door. "Oh my God, Justin! It's out here."
Our fellow apartment dwellers were outside too, facing the black billowing smoke. Orange flames flickered out the window of the building across the street and behind the bungalows and small parking alley.
I put on my shoes and went outside. Justin followed. After climbing the stairs I could see over small houses, one of the boys followed me. Our other halves went across the street and into the alley. The entire time there had been sirens, but the sense of arrival felt insecure.
I knew Justin would help if he could.
The police were already there, my neighbor and I could not find our boyfriends, but crossed the street and watched with the other people who had been drawn out of their homes by spectacle, curiosity and fear.
There were people taking photographs with their digital SLR cameras, but they were standing at their regular height, just snapping at the flashing lights and the water spewing from the ill-attached fire hose at the hydrant on the corner. I couldn't do it. I saw so many beautiful shots. The sky was just at that beautiful color that only lasts a few minutes before darkness overtakes it. The red, blue and white flashing lights, the reflections on the red trucks, the little girls and boys holding their parents' hands or perched on their daddy's shoulders. One little boy was hypothesizing into the ear of his dad, "Maybe there was a candle and someone was playing with it."
I know there could have been shots.... the fireman's bag of equipment lying near the hydrant. The ladders to the roof. The black air and the stunned faces of the displaced.
What is the difference between camera owners and news cameramen or photographers capturing the moment? Who is exploiting other people's loss for their own gain? Does it matter?
I just couldn't do it.
I just wanted to make sure everyone was safe. That Justin hadn't gone in. The Marine. The almost-doctor. My husband. He says he would help if there was something he good do, if someone needed him, if...
You can see I won't deal well with that.
As it is I'm still all stressed out, and all we had to do was close all of the windows and shower immediately to wash off the smoke we know too well.
This block of car vandalism, car theft leading to homicide, incomplete building projects, homeless men sleeping and defecating and picking at our property, graffiti and the crazy Corner Guy... we'll miss you so.