Tuesday August 26th ~ York, England
I thought long and hard about sharing this story, but perhaps it will do more good than harm. At least that is my hope…
We were awakened in the middle of the night (Sunday night/Monday morning) with the fire alarm over our head blaring. You may recall that this has happened several times already on this journey, and each time it has been a false alarm or prank which has mostly gone ignored by all.
This time was different…
People got dressed, pulled on warm jackets, and in an orderly manner as directed by someone with a fluorescent yellow vest on each floor, walked calmly down flights of steps to the open street below.
Two fire trucks were already on the scene by the time Tim and I made it to the opposite curb. We gathered en masse and watched as two more trucks arrived. No smoke was billowing, no flames were seen. Just a loud, ongoing alarm.
There was a light, misty rain in the cool night air.
And then about 15-20 minutes later, just as good conversations were being developed with total strangers on the street, the all clear and an OK was given for us to return to our room.
I had a hard time getting back to sleep and a couple of hours later finally drifted back to dreamland…
In the morning we found a note had been slipped under our door from the hotel management. It read:
Thank you for your co-operation and efficiency in evacuating the hotel last night.
In a building of this size and nature, a fire detection system is an obvious necessity and is there for your safety and security of all our guests and team members. Whilst being evacuated is an inconvenience, we are sure you will agree that it is necessary to ensure there is no risk to the safety of our guests and team members.
Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience caused by our fire alarm and subsequent evacuation. If you have any comments please make our reception team aware on departure.
Tim and I talked about how we had gotten complacent about the fire alarms after so many “false alarms”, kind of like crying wolf. And yet, we acknowledged the importance of staying safe, being aware of where the emergency exits are located, the route to the stairways, and checking to see if the alarm system is there and functioning.
When staying in so many different hotels as well as a few private residence, this becomes even more critical to be aware of our surroundings. Waking up from a deep slumber, in a strange or different environment, is in itself disorienting, especially when a loud alarm is the cause.
Fast forward to early Tuesday morning.
I wake up this morning around 7 ish, and as is my norm, I grabbed my iPad to check for messages. Seeing a text from our son, asking if we are awake catches my attention. He has some devastating news to share. Our business manager, Kiyoshi, who has become like a son to us and a brother to Dane has lost his sister.
Here the irony becomes too much. She died in her sleep of smoke inhalation. And from what we are piecing together, it happened at almost exactly the same time as we were evacuating from our hotel the night before.
Kiyoshi’s sister lived in Brazil. They did not have smoke detectors. The building next door caught on fire. She died in her sleep. A smoke alarm probably would have saved her life. The funeral service is today.
Tim had a long phone conversation with both Dane and Kiyoshi to offer our condolences and determine if we should fly home. For now, neither of them want us to do that, but we have left the door open that we will immediately jump on an airplane if needed.
My heart is heavy as I write this, knowing that Kiyoshi, his parents and his remaining sister will each grieve in their own way and wishing there was something we could do that would ease their pain.
I can think of nothing, but will try to turn this horrible situation into a moment where we can perhaps make a difference.
I can not count the number of times that well-intentioned friends and family members have cautioned us or worried about us traveling to XYZ country. People worry about wars, political upheavals and demonstrations, terrorism, violence on the street, disease, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and God only knows what else.
None of these things have harmed us.
Instead, today we are mourning the loss of a young woman who died AT HOME IN HER OWN BED, because fire alarms are only for the rich in Brazil.
My take-a-way message for all my friends and loved ones is this:
Please, PLEASE, P.L.E.A.S.E, check your smoke/fire detectors and make sure that they are operating properly. Test them. It only takes a moment. And if for some reason you do not already have them installed in your home or apartment, go buy them.
When you are traveling, take a moment to find out where the emergency exits are located. Form a mental plan on how you would leave the building if needed. Know where your passport and any critical medication is, and have them easy to grab.
The life you save may be yours or someone you love.
Gratitude Moment: Today is particularly sad for us. It is hard to find reason for being grateful, yet it is in these moments that I most need to count my blessings. So I will simply close with this:
“At sunset the little soul that had come with the dawning went away, leaving heartbreak behind it” ~ L.M. Montgomery, Anne’s House of Dreams
“What we have once enjoyed, we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us”. ~ Helen Keller
Wow! Life is so strange sometimes. Thank you for sharing this story. Maybe that was the purpose of the experience, strange as it was, for you to be able to make others aware. Safe travels. Enjoying your journey.
Thank you Silver Threading. This was a rough story to tell.
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My thoughts are with you all at this time.
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My thoughts are with your and Kiyoshi’s families, Joanne. And good for sharing this and your fire and smoke alarm reminders.
Thank you Mike for your kind thoughts.
Thank you for writing what must have been a very difficult post; my sincere condolences.
For what it is worth you have prompted one of your readers at least to check their smoke detectors (I realised I had not done this for 6 years).
You were right – it took less than 30 seconds.
Thank you my friend. Knowing that people care, and that they are taking this step to protect themselves and their family means a great deal.
All I can say is Wow!
many a time I have been evacuated from a hotel, but never with the awful coincidence that you have experienced, I am so sorry for you and your family and friends.
Thank you salpal1
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I’m very sorry to hear about your loss. I discovered your blog, I think, through one of your responses on the Frommers boards. Just wanted to say I’ve enjoyed reading your posts and seeing all the beautiful photographs. It’s inspiring to think that my husband and I might travel other than in one-week marathons someday when we’re retired.
Elizabeth, welcome to our little corner of the world. I’m glad you are enjoying our pictures and sincerely hope you and your husband will take the time to travel the world together, the sooner the better!
The dangers while traveling are usually much less than those at home. We get too comfortable at home and aren’t held to the same safety standards as a hotel and such. Hoping that your friend and you are comforted in your time of loss. 😦
Thank you Three…
Such a sad story and shocking coincidence. Will be taking on board your message about travelling safely and smoke alarms. Life can change in the blink of an eye.
Joy, that is so true about things changing in the blink of an eye. We never know what each day will bring, but we continue to “be open to the possibilities”. Thankfully and gratefully most of our travel experiences have been amazing.
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So sorry about your friend, and business manager, sad that such a small thing, we take for granted could have changed the outcome. We will check ours this morning in our MH. Thanks for the reminder.
Thank you Time Traveler for your condolences AND for checking your smoke alarm.
Thanks for sharing this. I felt good reading that they actually had someone on each floor guiding you out of the building. I am thankful you are okay.
I am so sorry for the loss of your dear friend’s sister. Eerily coincidence of cause of death and the similar time. We are all so connected.
I will have Steve check ours before we go to bed.
You may save a life by writing this most difficult post. Thank you.
Brenda, I’ll be surprised if Steve has not recently checked your smoke detectors. He strikes me as the kind of guy that would regularly do just that. I know your family and safety is a top priority for him. Sending love to all of you!
Everyone’s already said it, but it bears saying again: Thanks for sharing this. the act comes from a generosity of spirit that we can all appreciate.
Thank you Ellen.