December 24th, 2008, 5:14AM.
I was sleeping peacefully, like any eleven-year-old would have been that early in the morning. It was my first Christmas break as a middle schooler. However, my sleep was rudely interrupted by a loud, shrill BEEP BEEP BEEP.
Since my bedroom is closest to the stairs, I woke up on the first beep. I lay in bed, confused, as I listened to the sound repeat itself again. And again. And again.
As I heard my mother get up and go downstairs, I remembered something: A few weeks earlier, I had been having dinner with my brother and my father at my father’s house. I had noticed a small, white box plugged into the wall in my dad’s dining room.
“What’s that?” I asked my dad, pointing to the box.
“That’s a carbon monoxide alarm.” My dad answered.
“What does it do?”
“Press the button.”
And so I did. The response from the box was a loud BEEP BEEP BEEP, the exact same sound I was hearing now.
I lay in bed, paralyzed by fear, as I heard my mother on the phone with my father downstairs. Even though my parents had been divorced for almost two years at that point, my mom would still call my dad to ask him questions about the house they once shared. Suddenly, my mother stopped talking. There was silence for a moment, then, she began to run up the stairs.
I was out of bed before she reached the top step. She flipped on the light in the hallway and yelled, “GET UP!” I ran into my brother’s room and screamed for him to get up. I probably also threw a “WE’RE GONNA DIE” in there, but hey, I was eleven.
It’s strange: Everyone always says what they’d grab if they had to leave their house in the middle of the night. Some say pictures, some say prized possessions…but when you’re really IN the situation where you have to pick and choose what to take, you don’t even think about it. You grab what’s near you.
In my case, that was my beloved Blankie, my tattered baby blanket (yes, it’s still on my bed to this day. Leave me alone.) My brother grabbed the portable cage for our Leopard Gecko and put her inside. My mother, being the wonderful person she is, grabbed her phone…and a bra. Classic.
As I ran downstairs, I caught a glimpse of the clock in the living room. It was 5:14AM, December 24th, 2008.
The fire department determined the cause of the Carbon Monoxide was a vent in our chimney that had iced over in the winter. When our heat turned on at 5:00 in the morning, the heat that went up our chimney had nowhere to go, thus backfiring into our house as Carbon Monoxide. I know, it’s weird, but my house is 87 years old. Cut it some slack.
The fire department also told us that, half an hour longer inside the house, and we wouldn’t have made it. In just fourteen minutes, the level of Carbon Monoxide in our house jumped from zero to 365. In fourteen minutes.
My parents had purchased the Carbon Monoxide alarm ten years earlier, expecting they would never have a reason for it, but “just in case.” Today, the Carbon Monoxide alarm that saved our lives that Christmas Eve morning is still in my home, resting comfortably in an outlet in my basement. It’s recommended to replace the alarms every five years; we now have two more in the house, one for every floor.
I hope whoever is reading this makes sure they have a Carbon Monoxide alarm in their home, as well. Even if you think you’ll never need it, buy one. Just in case.
Merry Christmas, squadlings.