I thought it would be like any other day coming home from school, eating lunch while doing homework, and then begging my mom to let me go outside and play with my neighbors. I soon realized it wasn't going to be a normal day after all. Instead, it turned out to be the worst day of my life!  I was outside playing with my friends; we were riding bikes, roller blading, playing tag, and doing each other’s hair. My friend’s mom had to step out of the house and go to CVS to get medicine for her younger daughter who had a fever and a bad headache. As we continued playing, I suddenly started seeing and smelling smoke; there was a thick black cloud of smoke coming out from underneath my friend’s front door. We all just stood there for several minutes, until her mom came back along with her dad; they both jumped out the car and told us to move quickly to the far side of the parking lot. Her dad ran into the house and got their little dog, whose name was Georgie, who had been trapped inside the house. Her mom was on the phone with the police, telling them that a fire had occurred on the first floor and that it was working its way up to the third floor, where I lived. I was in shock; my mom and my baby brother were upstairs getting ready to take a nap. My mom had specifically told me to come back upstairs at a certain time.

We all started screaming, “Fire! Fire!” to warn everyone in the building so they could evacuate. Even with all the screaming and the smoke detector going off, my mom still did not answer. I was trying to run upstairs to wake up my mom, but my neighbors would not allow me to.  So I started screaming, “MOM! MOM!” at the top of my lungs with all my might; it was such a relief to finally hear her voice and see her head pop out of the window. She asked, “Is there a fire?” and we all screamed, “YES!” Then she asked, “In the front or in the back of the building?” We all screamed, “In the back!” and then she called out, “I’m gonna run out the front!”

I was so relieved to see her run out into the front yard with my baby brother in her arms. Then my mom started screaming, “Baggia Baggia!” That was the name of our dog, who came dashing out of the front door. We all just stood side by side watching the fire, waiting for the firefighters to arrive; it felt like forever. We finally heard the fire truck sirens approaching, and then we saw the fire truck. We watched as the firemen unloaded the hose and put up the ladder; we also heard a loud boom go off inside the house. Finally the firemen had the fire under control. The Red Cross arrived and spoke with my mom; they gave us money to stay in a hotel for three days. My mother still sent me to school even though I had no uniform to wear. I felt embarrassed and awkward because everyone was making fun of me; they didn't know what I had been through and how my family and I had lost everything.  The school tried to suspend me for not wearing my uniform; I called my mom crying and she came to the school and talked to my social worker, who was very understanding and helpful. She was able to donate school supplies and a uniform, which we were very grateful for. The valuable lesson I learned from this frightening experience is that it's not material things that are important. Rather, what’s really important is family and who's there for you when you need them the most.