Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Fire...IS hell

         I repeat...FIRE IS hell!

Remember the guy in the movie “Network”.
“I want you to get up now...I want you to get up and go to the window” etc, etc,etc.
Well..here’s what I want you to do.
Look around....seriously...look at what you have in your room...the other rooms...and select what you couldn’t live without.
Because...when a fire breaks out...you don’t have time to think about this stuff...important in your life.  
So...take a good long look and determine what you would HAVE to save..and how you could save it...(toss your computer out a window? whatever)....for your life to continue on in the productive way it was before the match was lit.
Our small but attractive home was actually a picturesque stone house.  You can Google something by Norman Rockwell called “EVERGREEN COTTAGE” and you’re looking at our home. My Dad had even matched the Rockwell colors with the red door and the green awnings on the windows. We had a small old fashioned wood burning stove  where we built a fire to keep warm.  
My parents had sold their house in the Chicago suburbs (bye Jackie!) and in the summer lived in this stone house and then they wintered (with our cat Fabian) in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.
I had lost the election and was looking for work in radio again.
It was November and cold and I used a small bit of lighter fluid on some wood to get the fire burning.
A small part of wood...already burning popped out of the stove and onto the floor and swish ...thing took off like you couldn’t believe. 
I grabbed the phone and dialed the operator and told her what had happened.  She tried to keep me on the phone to get more information on the rural location...but I screamed at her that I had to get out.
Now here’s the tough part.
I had about two minutes to get everything from my life in hand and out the door.  
      My car was parked close to the house and I worried about that.
What I saved in that short period of time and what I didn’t was based totally on what I could see in the bourgeoning smoke filled house.
Unlike you...whom I’m sure have followed my suggestion to single out those things you would save...I was completely disorganized.
I did grab my wallet and brief case but at the same time I left my correspondence which included two letters from the late JFK and one from his brother Bobby. They burned to a crisp along with my other important documents like my passport etc.
All of my tapes from my radio days also burned up.  And that was a singular loss I could not replace...like the letters.
I got out ok...was not injuried...just coughing a bunch of smoke out of my lungs and I did get the car moved having found the keys in time.
I don’t think I actually had two minutes...it seemed more like less than a minute before I couldn’t breath.  Once that happens... you have to get out.
     We were not near a fire station and they had to send a volunteer fireman out to confirm the fire (it happened to be the man who farmed our land) and by the time he had confirmed it the other firemen had suited up and they came out with two or three trucks....the main and rear portion of the house (wood) was engulfed and not worth saving.  The actual stone part in the front and sides was not damaged and my Dad would be able to get that cleaned up and build a new house onto the old stone house and my parents actually got a nice new home out of the insurance...which my Mother badly deserved as she loved the Chicago house and the neighbors there very much.
I rented a room in a boarding house in Rockford and proceeded to seek a job.
And here is the kicker.  I’ve always lived by the adage that luck is weird...that you have some good luck and then “bang” something bad usually happens.  But I was never really serious about that.
I had lost an election...burned down a house...losing precious and irreplaceably personal items and things looked bleak.
Then... I got a call.
NBC News....Chicago.
And “bang...boom”...or whatever...a really marvelously huge..turn of good luck.
      Several weeks before the fire I had sent a resume to WMAQ-TV/Radio in Chicago.
The newsroom boss was on the phone and wondering if I could come over for an interview.
The job wasn’t much...a temporary slot as a writer-producer for both tv and radio.  If they liked me...it could be permanent.
I moved to the Windy (again) and went to work.
My luck had indeed changed for the better and as you will see...in a few short months...because of my Vietnam experience (two tours) I would be named an NBC News correspondent and on my way to Saigon...for really big bucks!
“Stan Major...NBC News...Saigon”  would be heard about four or five times a day..seven days a week for the next six months....not just on one station...but on the whole NBC Radio Network coast to coast.  Some television too....but I was THE radio guy for NBC in Vietnam in 69-70.
And a firm believer now in the good luck-bad luck cycle of life.

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