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Life Update

WARNING: This is a VERY long read recounting our experience...




Life update.


If you follow me on IG, you will likely know all about this. I have a highlight reel with pretty much all of this same information over there if you are more of a video type.


At any rate, here’s what’s new…


April 25th, 2021. It was a pretty typical Sunday in the Dye household. Lorelai and I had woken up before dawn to head out for a volleyball tournament with a local travel team that I coached. It was a pretty quick tournament. We finished rather early! If you know much about club volleyball, you know that these kinds of tournaments can last ALLLLLLL day long. We had plenty of time to drive into the city afterwards and make a couple of grocery store stops. We stopped by Costco, Aldi, and HyVee. HyVee was super important because it was actually for a Mother’s Day campaign that I was hired to work on for Instagram. We had purchased all the items necessary for a successful campaign!


We arrived home at about 2:30pm.


We dropped off all the groceries in the kitchen to their designated areas and then because it was one of the nicest days we had seen in while, decided it was the perfect opportunity to get some yard work done! Clint was mowing. I will cleaning out the garden beds. We had a small brush fire going in the fire pit that was barely smoldering. It had so many wet leaves and sticks in it that we could really get it going fully. There were no flames. Just a smolder and a little smoke.


I had walked to the back corner of our back yard and was raking up trash and poop and just all the things that accumulate in your yard over a long and harsh winter.


Aaron made a comment that I had kinda brushed off. “Why is there smoke coming from the garage?” I responded with, “It’s just the brush in the fire pit”


All of a sudden - the scariest and most heart dropping words I’ve ever heard in my life were screamed…


FIRE! FIRE! FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!


I jerked my attention around. There was Emmett. Screaming and crying and running from the garage.


I immediately sprinted towards the garage to see what the heck he was freaking out about. Clint was right behind me running from the front yard.


I open the door that led from the back yard, into the garage.


That’s when I saw it. The biggest, most raging flames I have ever seen in my life.


Clint and I freeze for just a moment and look at each other. He asks me, “What do we do?”


I turned and look back into the garage. I contemplated - “Is this something we can put out ourselves? NO! It’s way too big! It’s already engulfing the entire garage.”


I immediately responded with, “CALL 911!”


My phone was inside the house, so I couldn’t. Luckily, his was in his pocket (like always, thankfully). He whipped it out and proceeded to make the most urgent phone call of our lives up to this point. While he’s on the phone he starts wrangling up the kids and heading around the other side of the house to get to the front yard.


I turn back to the garage and try to wrack my brain as to how I could help. How could I slow this down?


The door on the backside of the garage, that I was standing near was a metal door. I thought maybe I could suffocate it by closing it. So silly!


I slammed the door shut and turned around to start running around the house. After just a few steps I heard a big blast come from my behind me. I didn’t look back. I can only assume that the fire was already so big and so hot that it exploded the back door open to get more oxygen. (Later I found out I was right about this.)


I ran to the front of the house and went inside.


I know. Never go back in the house!


But our dogs were inside.


You see, they have a tendency to run off. They are beautiful goldendoodles. But with that breed comes lots of energy and excitement. They need to run for miles, daily. And we simply do not walk them enough to allow them the opportunity to burn off that energy and get the exercise that they so deserve. So, with us having the gate open and walking in and out of the fence, we did not want to risk them running off that day. So, we had put them in the house.


I entered the house and was frantically looking for them. Calling their names. “Hulk!” “Beatrix!”


They wouldn’t come.


“Why won’t they come to me?”


“Where are they?”


“Did they let themselves into the garage?”


“Are they in there?”


“Where are they?”


I heard Clint calling for me from outside the house. “TARA! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”


I end up giving up on finding the dogs. The house was completely engulfed in smoke. I could barely see.


I ran out the front door and yelled at Clint. “I can’t find the dogs!!”


He said he had already got them out. They were in the van. Safe from the fire.


I ran to my family and put my arms around them. I hurried all the kids across the street.


Screams. Cries. Tears. Fear. Heartache. Sorrow.


I did my best to calm them. I am actually a very calm person in the midst of a crisis. I was holding strong. Not a tear. Not a scared screech or yell.


Clint’s truck was parked in the driveway. Right up next to the basketball hoop that was directly in front of the garage door. He had gotten his keys from somewhere. I don’t know if they were in his pockets or if he had grabbed them off of the key hook that was just inside the front door when he had gotten the dogs out, or what. Still a mystery to me to this day.


I saw him get into his truck and back it up speedily. He parked it.


I was still with the kids. Trying to calm their tears and fear. With very little success.


I tell them, “It’s OK! All that matters is that we are all safe. We even got the dogs out!”


“What about Thor??” I turn and lock eyes with Aaron. His voice cracking and breaking.


If you know Aaron, you know that he has the biggest heart in the world. He loves everyone and everything with all of his being. With his whole heart.


This is when I almost lost it. My emotions were getting the better of me. I took a deep breath and held back the tears and got my voice together.


“Well, bub, we are going to have to leave him.”


“What? But he’s family!”


“I know, but if we try to go back in there to save him, we could get hurt. And that’s not something that I want to risk. Do you?’


The saddest word I’ve ever heard… “no.”


He sat there. Heartbroken. Tears flowing. Watching his home, his pet, his most prized possessions quite literally, go up in flames.


Clint’s standing in the street. Watching.


My back is to the house. The kids are all circled around the front of me with my arms around them all. We are all sitting or kneeled on the sidewalk directly across the street from us.


The dogs are barking from inside the van. Which was parked on the side of the street closest to the house. Directly in front of our house. I was worried for them. The flames were hot. I could feel them on my back all the way from where we were.


We sat there. Watching. Waiting.


The flames just kept growing and growing. You could see them coming out from the other side of the house now. From where the attic connected with the chimney.


It seemed like forever we waited for the fire department to show up.


But also it happened so quickly. The flames grew bigger every single second. It took the garage in mere minutes.


The neighbors directly to the west of us (the garage side) came running and screaming out of their house. They ran across the street of their home and kept their distance. She was on the phone with 911. I could hear her panic and fear in her screeches into the phone.


My heart broke again.


We were causing that pain and fear I heard in her voice.


She had her son with her. She ran an in-home daycare out of her home. I felt terrible. But luckily, there were no extra kiddos there at the time.


Finally the fire department showed up.


They did most of their conversing with Clint. And honestly, most of the conversations I had that evening are pretty blurred.


It took them a long time to be able to get access to the water.


The neighbor down the street was parked directly in front of the fire hydrant.


Apparently, they towed his car. I had no idea. My focus was on the house.


A neighbor from down the street came down and offered to take the kids for me. She walked them down to her house to try and distract them and calm them down. So, they didn’t have to sit and watch the horror.


Now, I was kidless.


I stood there and watched. I saw every flame. I saw the smoke engulf the entire neighborhood.


I yelled at Clint. I told him to call my parents. They live just a few blocks away.


Several neighbors are starting to come outside now.


They stand and watch from outside their homes. From the sidewalks. From their driveways. They slowly start to meander down the street and huddle together.


I see the groups forming.


I feel the peering eyes.


I feel the judgement.


I feel the pity.


All of a sudden, I see my dad walking down the street through the smoke.


At this point, the fire department and police department have our street blocked off on each side.


We were a closed street. No through access on either side.


I hear my dad say, “What happened?”


“I have no idea.” I told him what we were doing and how we found it. But had little information to give.


My dad stands there to comfort me for a minute. Then he begins to walk off. Talking to people. Looking. Watching. Trying to gather information. I don’t even know what all else.


My focus still on the flames.


The garage door is melting down now.


The siding of the neighbors on the west is beginning to melt away.


FINALLY! The water was flowing!!!!! The fireman had finally gotten access to the fire hydrant and the water line. They were spraying and spraying.


It really didn’t seem like much was happening. In fact, it seemed, at that moment, that the flames were too big. That they were not going to be able to contain or stop it. Just hopefully not let it spread to the tree that hung over the house from the front yard or to the neighbors.


Suddenly, out of nowhere, my mom is hugging me.


Apparently my dad had left her and she had to drive separately to get there.


She asked me where the kids were. I told her. She asked me where the dogs were. I showed her. She said she was going to get the kids and take them to her house. And as quickly as she appeared, she was gone.


The neighbors to the east arrived. They had been gone that day. Not having my phone, I was not able to reach them. They have two dogs as well. And a cat. I didn’t know if they animals were home. I was so nervous that their house was going to catch fire. It didn’t.


They moved their one vehicle and found me. We tried to move the dogs out of the van to their backyard, which is also fenced.


Suddenly, my watch begins to ring.


“Hello?”


It was a local friend. Apparently, my phone was destroyed at that point yet because my watch was still connected to it.


That conversation was quick. I don’t really remember all of what was said. Something in regards to what do we need. I had no idea.


As quickly as we put the dogs in their yard, Beatrix had unlatched their gate and allowed for both her and Hulk to hi-tail it out of there!


THE DOGS ARE LOOSE!


I quickly had to hang up on my friend. I told her the dogs were loose and I had to go at least before clicking that red button.


I called for Beatrix. She came right to me. My neighbor was able to grab her.


Hulk, darted from me and ran towards the house.


Towards the garage.


Towards the fire.


I ran after him. Screaming his name. “HUUUULK!”


My voice cracked.


I don’t think I have ever tried to yell louder in my life.


A fireman was near. He tried to grab Hulk. Hulk darted. Again.


Heading towards me, I broke down and got ready. He tried to dart again. I dove and basically fell on top of him to tackle him to the ground.


My neighbor took him and got her gate closed and got him in the backyard. I kept ahold of the escape artist.


Some of you may have heard some of the stories about Beatrix Kiddo, the ninja dog. She can get out of any containment. She jumps the fence regularly. She leaps right over it. She has pushed and squeezed her body out of the wires on those metal kennels. She can open any and all doors.


My neighbor asked to take her again. I said “No. I will hold on to her. She will just escape again anyways.”


“I got the gate blocked so I don’t think she can do it again”


“Then she will probably jump their fence and get into our backyard and then get caught in the fire. No, I will just hold on to her.”


She brought me a leash to keep Beatrix with me.


She was a frantic hotmess. She didn’t know where her kids were. She didn’t know what was going on. She didn’t understand the emotions in the air.


Beatrix and I went back to our place on the sidewalk across the street.

We stood there. I watched. She barked and pulled and ran in circles.


As Beatrix is trying to pull me around, I begin to see the basketball hoop catch the effects of the fire. The blackboard just melted away. The garage door crashed down. The entire hoop falls to the ground. The kids’ bicycles begin falling over. Their tires seem to just evaporate away.


A good friend of mine shows up. We talk. She stands with me.


I start noticing people. Strangers. People that don’t live in our neighborhood. Don’t live on our street. Don’t know us.


More and more of them show up. The street is down right packed at this point. People everywhere.


A man walks by me. Gawking. He starts TAKING PICTURES!


“Excuse me?! Why? Why do you need that picture? Do you live here?”


He doesn’t respond. He just slowly walks a little further away from me. A little further down the street. Then he stops. And stands there and watches.


A girl. A teenage girl.


She has her phone out. But she’s not snapping pics. She’s just holding it.


“What is she doing?”


SHE IS LIVE STREAMING!!!


My blood boils.


I’m furious.


WHY???


I mean, I know people are naturally curious. But dang, have some tact.


There were people from all over town there. I don’t know how they even knew to come. I am never that aware of things that go on in our town. I don’t think I would ever drive across town to stand and watch a stranger's home burn to the ground.


To be the person that is going through this, please understand that we are stressed enough. We have plenty of emotions and things to worry about. It is NOT helpful for strangers to come from all over to stand and watch and take pictures and videos. It adds to the stress. It makes it worse!!


A gal from the Red Cross shows up. She's asking me a thousand questions. Most I don’t know the answer to.


I get Clint’s phone from him and call our insurance agent. She had already heard. She makes sure everyone is safe first and then quickly goes through the process of what's going to happen and the process. We end the call. She does her thing.


I go back to the Red Cross lady. She hangs around for quite a while longer.


Clint walks up with two strangers.


They were from CERT.


They begin to chat with me and ask me questions.


They had thought the lady from the Red Cross was just a friend. She corrected them. Showed them her badge. Then there was an awkward silence. Tension.


The CERT people made a snide comment about the Red Cross. The gal from the Red Cross reminded them that they were all there to help US. Another snide comment from the CERT couple.


More awkwardness.


I get asked more and more questions that I don’t know the answer to.


I start getting overwhelmed.


Don’t they realize what is happening??


My house is on fire!


This is NOT what I want to be dealing with right now.


Finally, the questions subside.


We all stand there in silence. Watching.


EXPLOSION!!!!


The roof exploded off the house. It was a tin/metal roof. I don’t know the specifics. But apparently, the firemen HATE those kinds of roofs.


Many minutes pass by.


My dad finally finds me again.


Where has he been?


He checked to make sure I was OK. He said he was going to head home to help my mom with the kids.


I used my friend's cell phone to call another friend. She is the volleyball coordinator of several tournaments that I work as an official. I was scheduled to work that coming weekend. Obviously, that wasn’t going to happen. She is so amazingly sweet and such a good person. She experienced a house fire as a child and comforted me through our shared experience now. She had suggested trying to keep the kids in routine when I had mentioned likely keeping them home from school for a few days. She has been such an insightful creature that I have leaned heavily on through this whole ordeal. You know who you are. THANK YOU.


Several minutes pass by.


Clint is walking up to me with the fire chief. They pull me aside.


THE FIRE IS OUT!


They got it out! It is stopped! There are no more flames!


The garage is burned down to the studs and the foundation. The attic is gone. There is a gaping whole in the side of the house where the kitchen once was.


The fire chief proceeded to tell us that whoever had owned the house previously had double layered the drywall throughout the whole house. He said that because of that, it probably had saved us from the fire burning straight through the entire home and leaving nothing but ashes.


That double layer in the ceiling had actually kept the fire from burning all the way through the ceiling. The bedrooms were actually untouched by the fire. Smoke and water damage - yes. But fire - no.


The fire chief did say, “It looks like a complete loss.”


“BUT…”


“The gecko is ALIVE!”


“No way. How?”


“The double layered drywall saved him”


One of the firemen brought out my phone. It was soaked. But still on and working!


The chief said we could go in.


We could go in the house!


But nothing could have ever emotionally prepared me for what I was about to see.


I can’t even find the words to truly describe the sight. The feelings. The emotions.


It was horror. Piles and piles of ashes and soot.


It smelled like a straight up barbeque joint.


The kitchen, destroyed.


The dining room, destroyed.


The living room, destroyed.


This felt like the worst. This is where we did all our living. This is where all the memories were made.


We were led back to Aaron’s room by the firemen. They asked what all they needed to grab and they carried Thor, the gecko, and his home and all of his necessities out of the house and put it in Clint's truck. We were also able to grab a few other things from the bedrooms. The few family heirloom type things and keepsakes. Clint grabbed his old photo albums from the basement before all the water drained and ruined them. He also grabbed Matilda’s and JoJo’s ashes (our two pets who have passed). And I don’t know what all else.


The CERT people find us again and give us some cash to get through the night.


I called my mom from Clint’s phone. I told her we were about to head there, but wanted to tell Aaron that Thor was alive. He was so happy and so relieved.


We had friends rallying and getting donations and running to Walmart and McDonalds to pickup food and necessities.


We finally left the scene and headed towards my parent’s house.


We are greeted by friends from New Sharon (where the kids attend school, we live in Oskaloosa).


A couple of my volleyball players and moms were there. They had stopped by Walmart and grabbed a few outfits and things for each of us. My friend who had showed up at the house had ran and got food and some personal care essentials.


We chatted about what had happened. What the fire chief said. All the things.


It’s about 11:30pm at this point.


We ended up deciding to keep the kids in routine and planned to get them all up and ready to go to school in the morning.


Our friends headed out, vowing to check on us the following day.


I showered, had a good long cry in the hot water and alone, got some fresh clothes on and headed to bed with the two littles.


Clint got the big boys down to bed on an air mattress from the neighbors. Then at some point he showered and went to bed as well.


The next morning we awoke and got the boys up and ready to go and I took them in to school.


I drop them off to their classrooms.


Everyone was full of concerns and questions. But there was nothing but love and support.


I got back to my parents house and one of my friends was already there waiting. She checked on us just about every single day while we were staying with my parents. She is such a godsend. An amazing soul. And I know that I am very lucky to have the privilege to call her a friend.


Clint and I had to meet with the fire chief and the insurance agents that morning at the house.


Lots of boring talk about the logistics of things and the options. We were able to enter the house again in the daylight. The results of what we saw were even worse than what it was like the night before.


They boarded up the garage and the front door and made it so there wasn’t a safety hazard of kids or people getting into the house and getting hurt.


I had to take Lorelai to preschool. She was in the afternoon session.


My insurance agent and friend drove us. Then we stopped in at the community center in New Sharon. Donations had been coming in all night and all morning. Walking into the room was overwhelming. I was overcome by joy. I was touched. Tears were shed.


All the donations were all sorted and organized and they made it so easy for me to go through and pick out the items that would work for us.


A close friend from Instagram set up a GoFundMe account for us.


Donations of all sorts were POURING in!


Between the community we live in and the community where the kids attend school and we are actively involved parents, we had everything we needed.


Clint and I met the CERT people for lunch that day. They gave us another donation to help and were a great resource for us in some of the next steps.


I picked the kids up from school. Upon my arrival, I was greeted with boxes and boxes and boxes full of donations. I don’t think I could have had more gratitude in my heart than I had at that moment.


We have been so amazingly blessed through this whole situation. We have an amazing insurance agent who is our biggest advocate and one of the best friends anyone could ask for. Friends and family from all over the whole have shown up through simple texts to phone calls to buying or donating clothes for the kids to even monetary donations. We are so so blessed and so so grateful!


We will never ever be able to thank you all enough!


Herndon family, Edgington family, Sampson family, Shauna, Cyndy, Sue, Hailey, Shelby, Haley, Michelle - THANK YOU ALL SO SO SO SO SO SO MUCH!







Thanks for reading, friends!


XOXO


Tara










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