It was my senior year. I was a varsity cheerleader and I couldn’t imagine anything better. The huge game was coming up against the Clarkston Bantams, our rivals for as long as I can remember. No one was filled with more school spirit then the Lewiston cheerleaders. We were thriving; we were so ready to win and it was easily within our grasp. My friends were everything to me. I lived and breathed to go out on weekend. I needed to be a huge part of high school. I was intertwined in the petty drama, the games, the dances, every single part. I had been dating my boyfriend, Ryan, for 2 years now and we were oh-so-sickeningly in “love”. Every hour I wasn’t cheerleading or with my friends, I was with him. There was nothing more important to me than he was. I was the head cheerleader and he was the star of the basketball team. We were perfect together or so I very foolishly thought. It wasn’t until the fire when I figured it all out.
The night of the big basketball game was clear and warm. You could taste the thick excitement in the air. The cheerleaders were getting ready for our huge performance, the team was warming up, and the fans were already piling in. The crowd roared as the buzzer went off, signaling the most important game of the season. Life really was a fairytale. My dream-like state was interrupted by the shrieking alarm of the smoke detectors. Panic erupted through the stands as people pushed towards the doors. I stood frozen on the floor screaming inside my head. It wasn’t the voice I thought I’d hear. It didn’t ask where Ryan was, if he was okay. It didn’t ask if the game was ruined or if the other cheerleaders were alright. It screamed, where is my little sister? I know my family came to support me, where are they? In this moment I realized how foolish I had been. I realized how messed up my priorities were. What if one of us didn’t make it and I never got to see them again? I wasted so much time on insignificant and worldly things. This experience fueled my firm belief in family. I believe there is nothing more important than investing time and energy into the people who love you most and who will literally always be there for you. I believe that families are the most important unit on earth.
After frantic searching I reunited with my family. My relief that everyone was okay was enormous. It became impossibly larger when we heard that it was just a false alarm. All the fire trucks and alarms and screams were unnecessary. Some little boy had pulled the alarm. The people piled back into the building to watch the game, completely unscathed. My new clarity was left burning in my mind; the only thing that was burning that night.
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