I’m up late tonight because I can’t sleep.
I don’t know whether the story has traveled very far beyond the local news, but some of you may have heard about the beach house in Ocean Isle that burned over the weekend and about the seven college kids who died there. When I heard the news Sunday, the first thing I did was call my son, who often takes off on a moment’s notice for a weekend with friends at the beach. Even though Ocean Isle is not one of his regular destinations, you never know. But he was fine.
I have deliberately avoided watching the news for the last couple days, because this just hit so close to home. I can’t even tell you how many beach vacations we’ve taken, staying in houses just like the one that burned. Or how many times my kids have stayed with friends and their families in similar places. From the Outer Banks to Beaufort to Wrightsville, to Sunset and Holden, to Myrtle Beach and Pawleys Island, even down to South Ponte Vedre. All those beach houses are different, but they are exactly the same: weathered wood structures meant to stand against wind and waves. Not fire. I did not want to hear the details.
This morning I turned on the TV to watch the weather forecast and the first thing I saw was a video clip of that house completely engulfed in flames. All I could think about was those seven kids trapped inside, burning. It made me feel physically ill. And I cried. For those kids and for their families and for all those who loved them.
The horror of telling that story, of speaking those words, should have been bad enough. Showing that video was inexcusable sensationalism.
Tonight I talked to my daughter for the first time since I heard the news. I knew she was not at the beach, but she told me that a friend of hers was there. He and some other friends were staying at the house right next door to the one that burned. They had met those kids and hung out with them the night before. Needless to say, he is not in a good place right now, emotionally. Along with so many others.
It struck me again how easily that could have been one of my kids, or their friends, going up in flames on the morning news. And I wish I could get that image out of my head so I could sleep.
It’s hard to believe the parents of those seven kids will ever sleep again.