Lim: On fire

Wide Awake
Melanie Lim.
Melanie Lim.File photo

It was around 1:45 in the morning of Tuesday, Feb. 27, when I heard sirens, the non-stop honking of a vehicle and some agitated voices from the street. I was wide awake, still in my gym clothes, doing some house cleaning.

I saw Tejero Elementary School all lit up so I figured the fire might be inside the school. I ran to my dad’s bedroom and from his balcony, saw the raging fire somewhere behind the school.

I quickly woke the entire household. Ten minutes later, I received a distress call from one of my sisters who was at the ground floor to assess the situation, that she needed help to drive all the vehicles out of the compound.

We’ve lived in this neighborhood for 56 years and in this home for 40. We’ve witnessed many fires, have had many close calls but we’ve never had to evacuate vehicles or people. My heart started to race.

I thought of my father. I thought of the valuables. As I stood frozen in my thoughts, I saw another sister and told her to quickly go down to help with the vehicles. I decided to stay put to secure the valuables and to be with my father.

But suddenly, I heard yelling that sent chills down my spine. Men had entered our building, banging on doors and yelling for all occupants of the building to get out. I later learned they were members of the Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CCDRRMO).

Despite the orders to go down, I stayed put. I could no longer keep track of where the others were but I didn’t want to leave without my father and I knew that once I got out of the building, I would not be allowed to go back.

But one of the men from the CCDRRMO finally got to the fourth level. Before he could chide me for disobeying the order to evacuate, I told him about my wheelchair-bound father still in his bedroom with his nurse. He immediately understood and told me he would take care of it.

I was relieved. Help had arrived.

As I stepped out of our building, I glanced at our warehouse. The doors were still shut but peeking out from underneath the steel doors, were the colors of the inferno. My heart sank.

Shortly after two in the morning, we were all out of the building. We spent the next seven hours sitting in our vehicles parked in the street but spent the first three, watching our warehouse go up in flames. It was an excruciating experience.

I struggled to list down all the things I should be grateful for as I stood and watched all the contents of our warehouse razed to the ground. I prayed for a miracle. But the miracle I hoped for did not come. But throughout this heartbreaking and harrowing experience, God did not abandon us.

I thank the firefighters, the emergency personnel and the members of the CCDRRMO team who drove our vehicles out of the compound and especially Wilbert Dionisio who, together with our nurse, Renaldo Nable, carried my father down four flights of stairs, to safety.

(To be continued)

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