I've been trying to write about it for six months. It never feels right. It's not my story. I was just hit by the ripples their waves made.
It happened on a Saturday. We got up, turned on the television to watch the news as we always do, and saw it break on national news. It's a small place and it was unlikely that I knew anyone impacted but... it's a small place. It wasn't inconceivable that I didn't.
The phone rang two hours later. Unconfirmed information. Rumours. But there was enough truth in the information to know it hit our family. We just weren't sure exactly how. We knew at least one of the victims of the fire was Ours.
The phone rang again a few hours later. One boy was seriously injured. Three boys had died. Two of boys who died were family.
I didn't know them. I never met them. They were born after I left.
But their parents... they were the older cousins I chased after when I was kid. I am one of the youngest and now we're all grown up and their children were in their teens. They were young enough that in an alternate universe I could have children their age. I thought of my aunts. No one should lose grandchildren like that.
They were teens. They were learning who they wanted to be. They pushed boundaries. They toed the line. They lived and were loved.
And then they were gone.
The boys died on a Saturday. I started running on the Monday. I thought about the boys. I ran. I cried. That was the first day I tried to outrun the fire.
The fire won.
There are days when my runs are consumed with thoughts of work. Or I listen to an audio book. Or I think about what I'm cooking for dinner.
Now that school is back in session, and there's a chill in the air, I think of the boys as I pass by groups of teens on the trail. I recently ran by a group of three boys and I wanted to stop and shake them by the shoulders and ask them if they knew how lucky they were. How privileged they were. If they knew how much they had just by standing there on that trail, goofing off.
There are days when the boys consume my thoughts as I run. On those days I try to run just a little bit faster. Maybe, just maybe, if I try really hard I can run faster than fire.
It's been six months since that first run.
The fire wins. It always wins.