“The toughest time I’ve experienced in my life was the three-year period when my eldest brother had his biggest mental health episode, my house had just burnt down and then at the same time Mum was diagnosed with breast cancer. It all happened at the same time as it seems to—when shit goes wrong, it all goes wrong!
My house fire was due to poor workmanship when the fireplace was installed many years earlier; luckily, we had done so many fire drills at boarding school my adrenaline kicked in and I managed to throw my box of photos out on the back lawn, flicked off the electricity, turned off the gas and reversed the car out. The lounge windows exploded as I was reversing out—it was all so quick. Terry May got there within eight minutes of me ringing 000 and he just said, ‘we can’t save it.’ They did manage to stop it; my bedroom was still standing; my clothes were all burned however I managed to get some of my grandma’s jewellery from my bedside cupboard. After that everything else was water damaged so the whole house was bulldozed and removed.
Community around here is pretty amazing. The Wednesday after the fire, I went to the sports club and everyone walked in with a bag of clothes and blankets. The rebuild happened that same year, massive thanks to Gilly, but it was an exhausting year. Being the only house fire really put me in a spotlight that wasn’t always nice. 17 years on and I can still hear the sound the fire made even though my new house doesn’t have a fireplace.
It’s been interesting for me this year to see the difference with so many people having each other to share their fire story with. My experience felt very isolating; I was a single 24-year-old who was still dealing with the trauma while trying to be excited about planning a new house and all that goes with it.
My grandma was a huge influence on my life; my Mum’s mum was amazing. We spend lots of time with her and grandpa. When he passed away, she went out at the age of 70-something and got her licence. I had my full licence and was driving around with grandma with her L’s. An amazing woman in the way she took on life. Previously she was the ultimate housewife, grandpa’s wife and then the way she just took on everything. If Mum said ‘I am going up to Brisbane, Grandma, and you are coming’, she was like ‘OK.’ She just said yes to about everything.” I hope I have her outlook on making the most of life.”