‘Bri, the smell is getting worse.’ I open the cabinet under the sink. My dad screams, ‘The house is on fire, we need to get out!’

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“As a young mother, our morning routines were always the same. Wake up, get dressed, wake up my daughter Deklynn, change her diaper, then breakfast. Except today was different. My dad was up visiting from West Virginia and we were both so happy he was here. I slept in until 9 a.m. and woke to find a very happy baby in her pappy’s arms. I picked up Deklynn and went to get her diaper changed while my dad got ready to take his dogs outside. He gets to the front door and says, ‘Bri, I smell smoke.’ I come over as he opens the door, and the smell of something burning intensifies. Across the hall the neighbors open their door, they had burnt their breakfast. My dad smiles and shuts out door. We laugh and go back to our duties.

Two minutes later my dad again says, ‘Bri, the smell is getting worse.’ I go to the kitchen to investigate and we search for where the smell is coming from. Finally, I open the cabinet under the sink. All of a sudden, a large cloud of smoke starts creeping in… and fast. My dad then starts screaming, ‘the house is on fire we need to get out!’

I am scared beyond belief, and I cannot think of anything except get my baby out and run. So that’s what I do. I grab Deklynn (who is in just a diaper at this point) and a huge blanket and run out of the house as fast as I can. I ran so fast I even forgot to put on shoes. Luckily, my dad had all his suitcases packed still and close to the door. He ran everything out and went back for the keys.

We run around the house and make sure all the tenants are out and then call 911. It felt like a lifetime before the firefighters were there. I felt a sudden relief as I watched them pull up… ‘It’s over, they will put out the fire and we can go back inside.’ Except, that never happened. The water pipes were frozen, and they couldn’t get water for some 20 minutes or so.

I watched in horror as everything I owned went up in flames. By the time they got the fire out, the damage was done.

My close friends watched Deklynn while Red Cross worked with us. A local church had donated us a couple days stay in a hotel. I was so grateful for this generosity!

I was numb that night. I just couldn’t believe what happened. I actually had a burst of happiness for some reason. I went to sleep holding my baby.

The next morning, I woke… the tears instantly started streaming. My chest felt like it would explode with sadness. I didn’t want to wake my dad or Deklynn up, so I ran to the bathroom. I cried the most gut-wrenching silent cry I ever had. What was I going to do? How was I going to afford a new house, new household items, more groceries? Where would I go? How am I going to afford new clothes for me and my daughter as I had already been in the struggle before. I couldn’t stop the sadness.

I managed to compose myself and wiped the tears (not fooling anyone).

When I walk out my dad is sitting up in bed. I collapse once again, this time in his arms, weeping and asking him what I was going to do. My dad, being the strong man he is, just said, ‘Bri, you will get through this. All you have to do is start looking.’

And we did. All day long. I managed to find a small apartment. It wasn’t home, but it would work. Eventually I moved back closer to my mom who lived and hour away. New beginnings.

Fast forward to today and I’m in a wonderful house with my daughter, my brand-new son, and my amazing fiancé. I have a great job at a hospital down the road and I have two annoyingly cute dogs. I happened to stumble across a picture of my daughter in our old house. She is standing in front of the window and she looks so happy. I couldn’t believe that in those sad moments where I had lost everything, that I ever overlooked one simple fact – I got my daughter out. The fire took everything that day, but it didn’t take her. February 24th, 2014. The day I lost everything. Almost.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Brianne Okes, 27, of Michigan. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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