You’ve probably been wondering why I chose a fire truck when I started this piece. I have always felt a connection to firemen ever since I was little. When I attended Vernondale Elementary School in Erie, PA, firemen came to visit us a lot. The fire station was right around the corner, so when they had time, they used to pull up in their truck and take us for a ride around the block. When I was in the first grade, a fireman came to our classroom to teach us about fire safety. But, it wasn’t until I was in the fourth grade that I realized the importance of those lessons.
In January 1984, I was on a Girl Scouts camping trip at Hawthorne Ridge. The trip was only for a weekend, and now that I think about it, it’s odd that we went in the dead of the winter. I don’t remember exactly what we did the entire time, but I do remember that we drank a lot of hot chocolate. The last day we were there was a Sunday, and it happened to snow a LOT the night before. That day, all of the girls wanted to stay inside and play some stupid game. I didn’t want to stay inside the cabin, and neither did my best friend Kristi. So, Kristi & I spent the entire afternoon outside playing in the snow. Eventually, the daylight turned to darkness, and our weekend came to an end. So, we piled in the van and headed back to the school, where our parents picked us up.
The next morning, I went to school as usual, and the first person I saw was my friend Rachel. Rachel had gone on the trip with us. She ran up to me, and said “Kristi’s dead.” I looked at her in disbelief, and she said the same words again. I asked her what she was talking about, and she told me that Kristi’s trailer burnt down overnight. Within 5 minutes, the School Principal made an announcement on the P.A. system to say that Kristi Courteau and her mother had indeed died in the fire.
I don’t know how I made it through the day, but when I got home, I told my mom and began to cry. Then, I stayed up late to watch the story on the 11:00 news. From what I can remember, Kristi’s trailer caught fire around 11pm on the night of January 19, 1984. I don’t think they were able to figure out what caused the fire, either. It may have been from a lit cigarette, but it also could have been an electrical fire. Kristi’s mother’s body was found in the shower, and Kristi’s body was found by the front door.
Ever since that day, this memory has always troubled me. I realize that once a fire starts, it takes less than a minute for a trailer to fill up with smoke, and become engulfed in flames. If you look at the map above, you’ll see that the fire station was literally right across the street, but the firemen still couldn’t get there in time. If you are in a burning trailer, how long does it take to realize that you need to get the Hell out of there? It’s not like you have to go downstairs and crawl through many rooms to get to the door. Hell, I would’ve smashed the window out and jumped, if necessary. The only explanation that I could come up with is that Kristi was asleep while her mother was in the shower. That was why it took her so long to figure out that there was a fire.
So, I created my beaded fire truck in memory of Kristi Corteau. I will never forget Kristi. Maybe someday, I’ll see her again, in Heaven. And, when I finally do see her, I’m going to tell her that I’ve been mad at her all these years for not making it out that damn door.