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Out of the Ashes

Shoshana Schwartz

Daggers of fire tore through the house. And her worst fear surrounded her, suffocated her, held her in its burning grip.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The nightmares went on for weeks. Flames consuming my house. Smoke filling my bedroom. Walls of fire engulfing my world.

The spark that kindled this inferno? A series of safety films shown to us second-graders. Adorable little cartoon characters trapped inside a burning building, running around in circles and flapping their arms helplessly, until an adult arrived to rescue them from unspeakable pain and eventual death. Sure, once they had been rescued, the characters learned all about fire safety, as did we, the audience. But the imprint that remained was deep: I developed a serious fear of fire.

When I was nine years old, we moved into a house that had been rebuilt after a serious kitchen fire. When I heard that bit of history, I was flooded with relief; lightning doesn’t strike in the same place twice. This house had already had its fire, and I was safe. But some local kids decided to give us a warm welcome to our new home. On moving day, they lit a fire on our front steps, rang the bell, and ran away. My nightmares returned.

Everyone is scared of something, but they live with it. I pushed my fears to the back of my mind, hoping, praying that I would never hear the crackling of the flames. I made myself believe it.

I was wrong.


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