Behka Reflects on the Mark Twain Apartment Fire One Year Later
Well, today (July 18) is one of those days that isn’t very pleasant, but is very important. Like the day my mother died, like the day my grandmother died, it’s something that I dread happening. If you’ll bear with me, though, I feel like it should be something we talk about. One year ago today, I was here at work. I got a call from a listener about 4:15 p.m. He asked me if I knew anything about the big fire over at the Mark Twain Apartments. I don’t think he knew that I lived there, he just wanted to ask the station since we tend to keep on the beaten path of important Sedalia news. I, in shock, called my father to ask him to go check it out. I didn’t want to panic. When he hadn’t called me back by 4:30 p.m., I knew something was wrong. But I held out hope and went down there.
By 5:00 p.m., I had lost hope. Even though the Fire and Police departments were doing all they could, I just knew that nothing was going to work out. I know I hadn’t been that shocked and gutted by something in a long time. The pain and helplessness of it was surpassed only by the death of my mother a few years prior (she had ovarian, lung, and brain cancer within the course of two years. It wasn’t a shock, but it was painful). I had lived on the second floor, and since the fire engulfed the roof, it pretty much took out a lot of that whole upper level with smoke, fire, and water damage.
Now, it’s a year later. If I look at my life now, I realize that while things are better today than they were, say, on July 20 of last year, because I literally had nothing but some clothes I had worn that day. But if I look overall at how I am now versus how I was at, say July 17 of last year, they’re just…okay. I know people tell me the truth when they say, “it’s only things,” or “this isn’t anything money can’t replace.” Well, most of it was. But some of it can never be replaced.
- I’ll never replace the dollar I had framed from an old friend.
- I’ll never replace my mother’s anniversary necklace.
- I’ll never replace the letter jacket I earned in high school.
- I’ll never replace my grandmother’s locket from World War II, with the photo of her and the husband she lost in Germany.
- I’ll never replace my father’s Navy pea coat.
- I’ll never replace the tumbler glass set I bought with someone I loved back in college.
- I’ll never replace the souvenirs I got from my travels to New York City, Detroit, Toledo, Chicago, Arlington, St Louis, Knoxville, Memphis, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Los Angeles, and England.
- I’ll never replace the china cabinet that had been in our family home so long I can’t remember how it got there.
- I’ll never be able to replace the antique lamps and knick-knacks my Grandmother had since the 1950s.
- I’ll never be able to replace the two animals that died in that apartment.
I know I’m lucky. I could have been trapped in the apartment. I’m happy no one got hurt. And I’ve got a good life now. I’ve got a new place, and a loving kitty, along with a wonderful boyfriend to support me. My family has always been there for me throughout this whole ordeal. But I still think about it every day. I don’t know if I’ll ever stop thinking about it. It’s almost always just a fleeting thought. Someone asks about a book and I think, “Oh, I’ve got that…no. I USED to have that.” Or, sometimes I’ll be trying to get ready to go somewhere, and I’ll tear up my closets and drawers looking for this certain item, before I realize that it was something I USED to own. Sometimes I dream about it. Sometimes I just wonder what would have happened had this never occurred. I wonder if I would still live there. I wonder if I’ll ever financially recoup. I wonder about the others from the building. I haven’t run into any of them, I heard some of them moved out of town. I hope they’re all doing as well as I am, or better.
I still have questions that are unanswered. I still have anger that is unresolved. I know it’s probably not right of me to feel this way, but I am still not happy with the way the whole thing was treated by the people who owned it. I would have appreciated someone, I don’t know, checking up on me from that office. I guess that’s too much to ask – I might be too demanding. Maybe my expectations were too high, but the only time someone called me from there was to have me come get my deposit check. I still very much resent any comments about “those people” who lived there, referring to the tenants. I know they were said by other strangers a year ago, but… I can’t let that go. I don’t know if I’ll ever really be “over” it. Maybe I don’t have to be.
Every now and then I’ll drive by the empty space where the building used to stand. There’s a finality to it. It is somewhat of a help to see the ruins of the place gone.
I do appreciate everything that all of the wonderful people of our area did for me and all the others. I personally want to thank Don and Rinni from Auto Glass Express, the firm of Wilson, Toellner and Associates, St Paul’s Lutheran Church, Dale Malone and all the folks at Dukes N Boots, the staff here at Townsquare Media, the Salvation Army and the Sedalia/Pettis County Red Cross. I also want to thank the people who were old friends from school, like Susan from Fringe. And the strangers I’d never met like Sherri and Angela, who went out of their way to be kind and giving to someone they’d never met. I also got cards and gifts and well wishing calls from listeners. My family and my friends were incomparably understanding and patient.
Still, I just don’t think I’ll ever get to a point where I’m alright with it. I can ignore it, but that wrong is still there. I think one major thing is that I’m acknowledging it now, as something that’s just a sad pinpoint of my life. It’s one of those things maybe that makes you stronger in time. It hasn’t yet, but maybe when I’m older.