Have I mentioned I love my job?
I've been getting to travel as of late. And last week I was in DC for the 5th Annual National Summit on Education Reform. This is an event hosted by our organization. This one-stop shop of policies and practices offers an opportunity for lawmakers, policymakers and advocates to learn the nuts and bolts of education reform.
It's our biggest event of the year. This year the line-up of speakers included Jeb Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Joel Klein, Arne Duncan, and many others.
It's a big deal.
We arrived Sunday morning and began setting up at the hotel and preparing for over 700 attendees to arrive.
Monday was filled with the same.
We went to bed late Monday night and had a 6am call time Tuesday morning.
I woke up at 5 and was in the process of getting ready when I received a phone call at 5:30am.
The number was a Florida number and not listed.
I answered and heard "Is this Minda Corso?" Yes. Yes it is.
"This is the Tallahassee Police. I am going to transfer you to an officer who is at your apartment complex."
Upon being transferred, I heard a policewoman breathe a sigh of relief and said "Ms. Corso, I'm at your apartment building and there has been a fire. Are you here?"
At this moment, my first thought was that there was a small fire somewhere in the complex and probably not close to my building.
I said "I'm actually in DC at the moment....is the fire at my building or just a building close by?"
She said "The fire is in your building."
My brain immediately started thinking "what did I not do!?!?!? Did I forget to unplug my Christmas tree? Did I leave a candle burning?!?!"
The policewoman said she didn't have any other information for me at the moment but they were just trying to locate my body. I let her know I was safe.
I said "What do I need to do?" She said the fire was still burning and they were still putting it out so they didn't have any updates at this point but they would be in contact with me.
I hung up my phone and stood at the base of my bed in the hotel room.
The first thing out of my mouth was "Jesus. I know that you love me. I don't know what is happening, but I know that you love me."
I probably repeated that phrase over 50 times before leaving my room.
Looking back on that moment, I know that I was faced with a decision. Whatever would happen and whatever would come of all this- I was given the opportunity in that moment to believe Truth or believe a lie.
I could believe that Jesus loved me and would work this for my good or I could believe that He didn't and that he was doing this to hurt me.
I think because my response was that of stating the truth and believing His Word to be true- I was able to face the next 48 hours. Perfect love, after all, casts out all fear.
I went downstairs and found several coworkers. I explained what was happening.
I called my 'uncle' Carl (not really my uncle- but close enough these days after all I've been through) and wake him up to explain what's happening. I asked if he could be my eyes on the ground in Tally.
One of my coworkers, Joanna, said her neighbor had connections and could get information for me. She contacted him and asked him the status.
At this point- I'm still thinking "minor smoke damage, nothing big." While on the phone, she asked me what building and apartment I was in. I told her building 9 and apartment 915.
When Joanna got off the phone she sat me down and said "Minda, it's bad. Your building has had the worst damage. The fire is still being put out. But it's bad."
This is the moment my chest starts to close up.
I don't really remember many details at this point, but all I know is attendees are showing up, registration is taking place, and I'm in DC while my apartment is burning in Tallahassee.
I think there may have been a few more phone calls to different people, but I go upstairs with a coworker, Sarah, and lay on the bed and bawl my eyes out.
I feel helpless. Several people were ready to get me a ticket home, but all I could think was "My home is gone, all my coworkers are in DC. My Tallahassee family is in DC. Why would I go back?!"
AND. It's the biggest event of the year. I had been SOOOOO excited about this Summit.
Again, not sure of the timing (I'm sure coworkers can help fill in the holes) but Sarah makes the call to Joanna to tell them to grab my journals if possible. I tell them where the box is and what it looks like. I don't care what else comes out- I want my journals.
I also tweeted around this time saying "Please pray. I'm in DC and my apartment burned down this morning." I didn't know anything more than that, but knew I needed people praying.
I have a good cry, clean myself up, Sarah brushed my hair, and I go back down in my black power suit and pull it together.
As I'm downstairs, Joanna receives a picture.
At this moment, I know I can make it.
Mary Laura, another coworker, called her husband who is a police officer at some point through all of this and they are helping get as much information as possible.
To have heard the news, not able to be there, and have people with connections was a HUGE relief.
The event is starting and Gov. Bush is giving the keynote address. I'm in the green room with my phone (which was BLOWING UP!) and I'm live tweeting the event.
From this point on- I go in full professional mode and keep to task.
The summit is going smoothly, people are enjoying themselves, rave reviews are already being heard, and I'm on auto-pilot.
I got a notification on my phone alerting me that someone had set up a donation page, but again, had no idea what was happening.
Thankfully, I was assigned the responsibility of staffing the Governor for the event and had NO TIME to stop and even think about stuff. For the record- at some point during all of this- someone had informed the Governor of what had happened and he immediately extended his condolences. He said "do whatever you need to do to get back home." I informed him I'd be staying in DC to finish out the summit and he responded "Well at least let people know- for the record- that I didn't make you stay and that I told you it was ok to leave!" **Noted** :-)
I got a text from my pastors wife around 9am, also saying "Random question...but what building number do you live in?"
I let her know it was my building and that I'd received news. I also asked if her and Wade (my pastor here in Tally) could connect with Carl and coordinate going to the apartment and pulling out whatever seemed salvageable.
I didn't realize how big of an 'ask' that was until I got home.
I am SO grateful for people who were ready and willing to help do ANYTHING.
Somehow I make it to the end of the day and Condoleezza Rice gets up to speak.
I knew after she was finished I'd be able to get to my room, regroup, and make a plan.
Wade had also let me know he'd be sending me pictures once I was done with the days' events. Which I'm so grateful. I don't think I could have dealt with work after seeing what I saw.
Here are a few of the photos he sent my way:
When I got to my hotel room, I not only faced these pictures of devastation, but at the same time, had looked at my Facebook page for the first time.
My friend Laura, upon hearing the news, set up a donation page online for people to start helping out. When I saw this, my heart was overwhelmed.
You have to know, aside from the first initial cry- I did not cry at all from this point on. My chest was so heavy, so overwhelmed, but I couldn't cry. I just started in amazement.
The page hadn't even been set up but for a couple hours and over 2,000 dollars had already been given.
I just sat there. Staring at these pictures of my apartment and watching my facebook page blow up. Two contrasting emotions- balancing each other out.
As exhausted as I was- I couldn't sleep.
I lay in my bed, turned on some music, willing myself to fall asleep, but it wasn't happening.
We had another day of the Summit left and I knew I needed sleep. I maybe got 2 hours that night and started all again the next morning.
Also. I need to note. Of course the first thing EVERYONE asked me was "You have insurance, right?!?!"
I can't tell you how embarrassed I am with this answer.
Since I lived in my first apartment (2005)- I've had renters insurance. ALWAYS.
When I moved to Florida, USAA informed me they don't cover Florida. I knew I'd only be in town less than a year so I figured I wouldn't go through the hassle of finding a new provider. It wasn't because I was careless or forgot- or because I didn't think about these types of things. I DO think about those things.
It just was an unfortunate event.
article/20121127/NEWS01/ 121127002/Update-Careless- smoking-cause-fire-displaced- 23
The links above are for the news stories covering the fire.
I actually just read these for the first time today.
I will write more later, but needed to get the initial post out.
And as I've said previously, I'm sure I am missing several details.
But here is where the story began.