I went to work in the morning and then straight to class in the afternoon. Around 5pm (while in class), I got a call from Jeff. This was odd, since he knows I'm in class at that time, so I texted him to see what was going on. He texted me back, "There's a fire in our building. 9th floor at the end of our hall on the other side." I asked if it was a big one, and he said, "The windows in that unit were all blown out and it was really burning, but now I don't see any flames. I would not be surprised if we have some serious smoke damage though." We continued texting back and forth a bit.
(These pictures I found online.)
Jeff had been at class, come home around 4:10pm, showered, and then went out to get a few groceries from Whole Foods across the street (probably around 4:30pm). In retrospect, he says he thinks he may have heard the alarm going off in the apartment down the hall (in our building, first a smoke detector alarm goes off in your own apartment for a while, and then the whole building alarm goes off), but he thought it was just the beeping of the dryer, so he ignored it. He shopped at Whole Foods for about 20 minutes, and when he got back to the apartment a little before 5pm, there were flames billowing out of the windows of an apartment on the ninth floor. (We also live on the ninth floor - the fire was in 908, and we live in 902.)
Also, my cousin Liz called me, because she'd seen a traffic alert that said there were street closures because of a fire at 1444 Rhode Island. My friend Lewis saw the same alert and emailed. At this point I was pretty distracted, so I left class to call Jeff and Liz. But since no one was being allowed even near the building, I figured it made no sense to hurry back, so I stayed for the rest of class.
I got back to our neighborhood around 8pm. The street was still completely blocked off and there were tons of firetrucks everywhere. Jeff and a lot of the other people from our apartment were in the lobby of the Miramar - an apartment around the corner from us that is owned by the same management company. They were doing a pretty good job of keeping everyone updated with the latest information.
They told us that they had broken the locks on all the doors on the ninth floor, to search for people, so those all needed to be fixed. Also there was water all over, especially in the hallways. The apartments themselves don't have sprinklers, but all the common areas do. They also had lots and lots of tests they needed to do, both to re-set the fire alarm system and also to check everything (gas lines, electrical lines) to make sure it wasn't damaged by the water used to fight the fire. They estimated that it would take a few hours, but that eventually, later that night, most people on the lower floors would be able to go back home. They said that most people on the 8th and 10th floor would not be able to go back, and that no one on the 9th floor would be able to go back tonight. If you had emergency medicine, depending on which apartment you lived in, they would either escort you up, or they you would have to describe where it is and they can get it. Other than that, nobody could go up there.
They ordered pizza for all the people waiting around, and the fire department people interviewed a lot of people who were in the building at the time of the fire (including Jeff). Our next-door neighbor (in 903) was the one who discovered the fire and called the fire department, so they had lots of questions for him.
Eventually, Jeff and I decided to call it a night, since it seemed like there wasn't any new information coming, and since we knew we definitely wouldn't be able to even get in and look at our apartment. We had very generous offers from a lot of our friends to give us a place to stay (Emma & Kris, Jaisha, Liz, Stephanie - Thanks, guys!), and also the management company said they would reimburse hotel rooms for the night. One of the building managers that we know told Jeff and I to go to the Hotel Helix (which is three doors down from our apartment building), which we did, and the Hotel Helix gave us a free room for the night, which was really nice. Overall, everyone involved was really nice, helpful, and efficient. People were working really hard to make the experience as smooth as possible and to keep everyone well informed.
We were able to walk by and look at the apartment later - the apartments in the front of the building have floor to ceiling windows, and those had been blown out by the fire, so there was glass all over the ground, and it looked like there was just a whole wall missing from the apartment where the fire started.
It was really weird not to have any of our stuff - no computers, no books, etc. Though, we were relatively lucky. Jeff and I were both out of the house during the fire, so we had our wallets, phones, etc. Our neighbor from 903 (and I'm sure others) evacuated the building in a hurry, and didn't have anything - no wallet, no phone, etc., and now they can't get back in to get them (if they're even still intact).
So, we bought a bottle of red wine, rented a movie (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) from the hotel entertainment system, and just relaxed.
This morning, Jeff and I showered, got ready (though all we had was yesterday's clothes), and walked over to our apartment to see if we could get in. I really figured we'd be back in by this morning, but they were still keeping everyone on the ninth floor out. They said that maybe they'll be able to escort us up later in the day to get a few things and/or just check the status of our unit.
So then Jeff and I went to the Caribou Coffee on the corner and had some coffee and breakfast, and talked over our plan for the day. It was no use just sitting around near our apartment with no computers and no phones, so we decided to go to school and work. Jeff headed off to Maryland so that he could at least access his school computer, and he planned to stop at Target and buy a phone charger. I went and bought a change of clothes at Ann Taylor, a phone charger from Staples, and then went into the office, which is where I am now.
It really is crazy how quickly all your plans can get turned upside down. Before Jeff called, I had written myself a little "To Do" list of things to do that evening. It said:
*Phone Call with Vada @ 8pm (This is one of our potential wedding photographers, I talked to her and explained that this wasn't a good time for us to discuss wedding photography)
*Look at wedding photographer galleries and group comments (This requires my computer...)
*Hang up clothes (These were in a pile on the floor next to the couch, and may be ruined now from smoke and water...)
*Organize Papers (Things also don't look good for all the papers I had spread out on the desk...)
*Scan Econ Papers (Those were on the floor of our apartment, near the scanner. Not the safest position if water got in our apartment...)
*Exercise (Probably still could have done this, technically, but I guess I forgot)
*Blog - Anniversary (I did that today ;) )
*Find save-the-dates (These were also on the floor of our apartment... along with all our labels and stamps.)
I'll write more if there's any news.