From these Ashes.
Standing in front of my house, while my son and daughter are in the truck, I watched our home as 30-foot flames shot out the top. Fireman did all they could, but they eventually called them out to attack the fire from the outside. Standing there watching this take place, I spent the next hour in a daze as my house and everything we owned, burned to the ground. Little did I know how much of 'the beginning' that first hour really was. The journey that our family started on that day was one of the most difficult challenges I have ever faced. Through it, we
learned a lot about the process of a house burning down. The confusion on home insurance, your contents, finding a temporary place to live, dealing with your children's school, maintaining your income, keeping your head on straight and somewhere in the midst of all that, keeping it all together cause my wife is 3 months pregnant with our third child! Many people experience tragedy in life, the lessoned I learned on how to prepare for, adapt through and still come out ahead are things I want to share with others. This is the story of how we rose From These Ashes.
Thursday, August 13th 2015, was a hot, sunny day. Around 12pm, I was upstairs in my office working on a few things, my two kids were downstairs. Jaclyn was gone running errands for the day. I had been working most of the morning in my office and my kids were getting a little stir crazy at home. I had a friend that afternoon coming to the house to work on replacing some siding on the overhang of our house. I decided to take a break, grab the kids and head to Lowes to buy the material for my buddy. Looking back, this was absolutely a message from God created to save my life. I had no need to leave my house. As a matter of fact, when
I called me friend about heading to Lowes to buy the material, he told me he would take care of it for me on his way over...I almost didn't leave.
But I did. I got the kids in the truck, my son took his iPad with him (ended up being a big issue later, since my daughter's iPad would end up burning in the fire) and we headed to Lowes. This is where it all started! I remember being in the
lumber department, me and the two kids minding our business when
...BOOM. It sounded like an explosion. (believe it or not, my neighbor was outside recording the random storm and caught the boom that hit my house, WATCH THE VIDEO!) Everyone in the store was looking around confused on the noise. It wasn't like something dropped in a section of the store, it wasn't directional noise. It was 'shake the building' loud. The entire building shook. As I looked around, every customer and employee had this look of 'what the heck was that' on their faces. I told my son to look down the isle to see outside and see it was raining. You know at these big stores, their main isles go from end to end and at one end they always have a garden area where you can see right outside.
He takes a few steps to where to can see and says dad, 'its pouring down rain outside!' I remember thinking to myself 'that's odd', it was sunny and hot when we were walking in here 20 mins ago. Where did that rain come from? We finish up, head to check out and proceed to leave the building and literally get stuck at the outside door cause it was raining sideways and people were blocking the door waiting for the rain to die down in order to get to their cars. I actually took out my phone and snapped a photo, because I couldn't believe that it was actually raining like this.
Finally after about 10 mins, the rain let up enough for us to make a break for the truck and head back home. I wasn't in my truck but 2-3 minutes and my phone rings, its our home alarm company. I answer immediately, thinking the door didn't close all the way and our alarm is going off. To my surprise, the rep on the phone says, 'Mr. Bohlke, your smoke alarm in your house is going off.' My heart sunk. I said, I am not home, so send the Fire Department and I will be there soon.
"I cannot begin to explain the feeling I experienced over the next 10 minutes of my life. I remember every second of it, as if it were yesterday."
I hung up the phone and immediately called our neighbor across the street, Amber. When she answered, I asked as fast as I could, 'Amber, is my house on fire?!' To that, she replied, 'WHAT!?' I repeated, 'I need you to look outside and see if my house is on fire!' She immediately made her way outside her house, saying 'hang on, Im going to look right now!'
I hear her front door unlocking, I hear the screech of the door hinges opening and the next thing she says to me is, 'oh my God Brian, there is smoke everywhere!'
I almost threw up. I said, 'what do you mean?'
She repeated it and said, 'Brian, your house is on fire, there is smoke everywhere!'
All I could think about was our poor dog, Mia. She was an 11 year Jack Russel Terrier. She was our first child. One of a kind, kind of dog. Mia was inside. I told Amber, 'Mia is inside!' I gave her the garage code to open the garage to try and yell for her to come out...to this day I wish that this part of the story ended differently. This was the beginning of the pain. I felt it. It was unreal. My mind was racing. My kids were safe with me, but my goodness I couldn't get home fast enough, and to make things worse, my wife wasn't answering her phone. I was praying to God she wasn't at home.
As I finally got to the stretch of road where I could see, I took this picture. Wow, even looking at it now brings back a serious amount memories. That was smoke from my house...and there was a lot of it. My heart was pounding. I remember my kids in the back seat...I can only imagine their experience. They were terrified. I remember the only two things they said to me. My son asked, 'daddy, where is Mia?' and my daughter said, 'daddy what about my lovie?' How do you answer those questions in that moment? I had so much going on in my thoughts and in that instant my children need answers too. But, what do you say? Do you speak truth? Do you respond vaguely? What is the right thing to do? I remember telling them, 'guys, daddy is hurrying home to do the best I can do and figure out what is going on...be brave and say a prayer to have God protect us.'
This is what I pulled up to. This was the moment of reality. It was a dream state of panic, unknowns and confusion all wrapped into one. I had two children that needed me right now. We just endured the tragic loss of my dad. My wife and I had suffered the unknowing pain of losing two children. We had prayed and decided to try once again for a third child. Here we are 3 months pregnant, focused daily on the stress free environment of my wife through this time. Then this, our freaking house gets struck by lightening and burns down.
The next 2 years of our lives was spent on recovering. Battling daily to keep the life we had going, sifting through the chaotic
amount of insurance paperwork and processes, finding a place to live, keeping our kids happy and rebuilding our lives. This page of my blog will tell the rest of the story. It will also provide resources of what to do if this happens to you or someone you know. I'll share the spiritual journey my wife and I went through, the struggle and challenges a husband and wife are faced with through a time like this. I'll also do my best to share how we came out of it. Better and stronger that we were. I pray you have never been affected by a situation like this, but if you have I hope this can be a blessing to you. One where you can find logistical answers, relationship answers and the spiritual reality of what you are experiencing and how you can and will make it through this. At the point of writing this, Jaclyn and I have already helped a few families in this same experience. Today, they have rebuilt their house. They made it through the process, the struggle and are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel...in this blog page, you will find their story too.
As always, if you have experienced this or are currently experiencing this and need help and answers, reference the Checklist for HOUSE FIRES blog. Read through that. I hope and pray it helps.