It was the evening of January 31st, in the year1981. I was planning to go out and celebrate my birthday (which was January 31st) with my sister and at that time, my fiancée. We lived in a duplex; my mother and siblings upstairs and me and my daughter of 22 months, downstairs.
Up to that point in my life I had experienced many things, as most young women have. I have been abused physically for many years by a boyfriend. Sometimes I was beat so badly, I was unable to attend school or work. I was a cheerleader, and oftentimes, I would have to attend games with black eyes, go to school and wear sun glasses all day, walk around with a swollen face and so on. My mother, as most would say, did the best she could. I’m not sure if I agree with that or not, especially after having raised a daughter who is now 20 years old and in college. We left a beautiful home in the South, where we lived with our grandparents. It was a home that my grandfather built with his own hands. He came here to this land, adapted to the English language, brought up two daughters and his grandchildren. He, along with my grandmother, provided a warm, loving home with lots of food and social activities.
On the eve of January 31st, I was playing music softly, as I got in the mood to go out and celebrate my birthday. Through the music I could hear someone screaming and shouting. My daughter was asleep in her room, in her crib. Her room was directly adjacent to a room upstairs in my mother’s unit. The voice became louder and I recognized it as my sister’s voice. I went to the front door and asked her what she wanted. She shouted, “A fire, fire, your baby, your baby.” By this time the flames had made it upstairs. There was no smell of smoke in my apartment and the room door was gently shut to my daughter’s room. Upon opening the door, I was engulfed with flames. I don’t remember much after that, but I do remember praying, “God please let my daughter live.” She did not. She was burned in the fire. I believe that things happen for a reason in life. I had been on a quest for spirituality for a long time. Although, I was raised in Catholicism, it was no longer fulfilling my needs spiritually.
I believe that our children are given to us as a gift, on a loan, if you will. It is up to us to love them, protect, them nurture them, and do all that we can to contribute to their future as strong, well adjusted, successful, meaningful adults. I believe that many, many parents take their positions for granted. We assume that we will watch them grow, complete high school, graduate from college, get married, and have children. That is not necessarily so. Things happen. It was a freak of nature, a perversion of life. But it happened. I believe that the reason I was able to recover at a reasonable pace, go on with my life, graduate from college get married and raise a beautiful, healthy, well adjusted young adult, is because I suffered no guilt from the loss of Aquene’. I had loved her with everything within me. She was my priority. I believe that parents all over the world should make children their priority. Not work, not play – but the children. I believe that if we really put the children first, the “no child left behind” act would become a reality. I believe we would stop leaving children in hot cars to die as we hurry off to work, I believe we would stop throwing them in rivers, and drowning them in bathtubs. I believe in the children.
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