Wednesday, June 23, 2010

How to Respond to Tragedy

Yesterday, lightning struck a tree next to the row of homes and a fire started at my brother's house. Neighbors who were home began banging on everyone's doors.  The fire grew and intensified.  The Fire department was called.   But flooding waters and Houston traffic (which is always bad), hampered response time. 

One of the neighbors called my brother who was sitting at a Starbucks preparing to call our Dad to wish him a happy birthday.  Dan owns a large four year old mutt of a dog named Chester (short for Chesterson), who was kenneled in the town home. He immediately hopped back in his car and began what should have been a 5-15 minute drive even with heavy traffic. We were driving home from canceled swimming lessons in a nasty rain/hail storm.  My sister called to tell me Dan was trapped in traffic and that possibly Chester was being burned in the house.  My kids prayed and we added a special intention to Saint Francis to look after Uncle Dan's dog.   I confess, I was not optimistic.  But we prayed and waited.  

Meanwhile, my brother was stuck in maddening traffic owing to floods caused by the storm that started the fire.  Traffic lights were out.  Roads were closed.  Water was high.  The whole trip, my brother was anxious and worried and praying.  His dog Chester was trapped.  Was he already dead? Was he choking and dying alone?  My brother said on the news, he had a panic attack about Chester.  So what did he do?  He prayed.  He prayed and prayed and prayed.  He told my mom that on route home in the midst of all that worry, knowing everything he owned in addition to his dog was being consumed by fire, he saw a woman with her car broken down in the middle of the road.  

Her voice trembled as she told me what happened next.  He got out.  "I can't help Ches but I can help her." he said he was thinking.   He helped push the car to the side of the road and then drove on.  When he got to his home, there was Chester sitting being hugged by the fireman that saved him.   My sister took Ches to the vet for a check up because he was wheezing and coughing up blood.   Friends took my brother in, and there have been already, many offers of help, and I know the hard road to recovery starts today.

But the bottom line is, while everything was destroyed, my brother is safe, no one was hurt. Chester is doing better, and while my brother lost everything he owned, he is a very rich man indeed.   I'm gushing because I can't but admit I'm very proud of him.  I don't know if I in the midst of a profound agony, uncertainty and doubt, could see an other, a stranger and accept the grace to stop to help. 

Chester and the fireman who rescued him.

Take care Dan.  Prayers.  Love you from Maryland.  
Proud to be your sister.


Mary Ellen/Nunly said...

Oh my gosh, what a beautiful post. I can't even imagine the panic and pain he must have been dealing with, worried about his dog. I would have been the same way and I only wish I would have had the kindness in my heart that he had as he stopped to help a woman in her car. I'm not so sure I would have...which shames me to no end!

I do believe that there is a very special place in heaven in the future for your brother and I have no doubt that God will also be sure there is plenty of room for Chester to be at his side.

Anonymous said...

I am in tears...Danny is such a gracious out faith in powerful ways daily. Thank you for sharing this part of the story. Blessings to you all...Ann Marie Quigley-Swanson

Mary said...

What an inspiration he is! In the midst of everything he helped ease someone elses discomfort without thinking of his own. Job well done Dan! We will pray that the recovery goes well for Chester and his fabulous owner.

MightyMom said...

Tissue warnings would be appreciated! Glad they're ok. P

Anonymous said...

I keep thinking that Divine Providence has much to do with Danny's story. Chester is a "rescue dog" and if the thieves had not tried to break into Dan's townhome a week ago, Chester would have been in his crate and burned to death. So, in a way, I am thankful for the "good thief" who enabled Chester to roam free on the first floor. We have so much to be thankful for- I am sorry that Dan's home and some very cherished possessions ( a special quilt, his bike, and his guitar, and books give to him by his Dad) were destroyed. But we are all so touched by the response of friends, relatives, former students and even people who do not even really know Dan. I think this reminds me of how gratuitous God is with grace. I feel like God has lavished us with grace- and all I can say is thank God, thank God.

Kat said...

It is truly awful Danny lost all that he did - I'm in awe of his positive attitude and the fact he stopped to help. We can all only hope we'd do the same thing, but I imagine most of us doubt we would. However, in spite of all that was lost, I think what has been gained will end up being worth so much more in the long run. I've never seen something go from so awful to so amazing in less than 24 hours. I was speechless yesterday when the Houston running community responded to a call to help for a fellow runner. No questions asked about "who is this guy?" or "why in the world should I help?" - the only question asked was "how can I help?" God has had one amazing hand (or is it two?) in this whole affair, and I for one, have a more positive outlook about a lot of things and people than I did just over 48 hours ago.

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