Do you smell smoke?
The house two doors down burned tonight. It took a long time for the fire trucks to arrive; people stood in the street watching the flames get higher and thicker, hearing windows break. It felt ghoulish to watch, but it felt irresponsible to go inside, as if standing on the street was somehow the right way to lend support, all the while thinking “Thank God it wasn’t us” (and maybe hating ourselves for thinking that). A neighbor took pictures – explaining apologetically that it was for his insurance. I thought of taking pictures – because it was something that was happening – but couldn’t make myself do it; but I felt terrible that somehow my neighbor had the impulse to explain himself to me.
The man with the camera case and SLR camera arrived, walking on our driveways to get a better vantage point. The local blogger arrived much later, striding officiously to the center of the scene, camera and notebook in hand. Wait, it’s our neighbor, this is our territory, get away!
Ironically, I actually now know something about the people that live there; their history, their family, their recent tragedies, their remodeling. What, if anything, can we do to help them now?