I lived in a dorm for eight months. A middle-of-the-night fire alarm is not something new for me.
But it was for my kids.
We were enjoying a long-planned one night getaway to a family resort. A chance to eat in a fancy restaurant, thrash around in a hotel pool, and watch a movie on a TV at the end of a bed.
And we did all of that and enjoyed every moment. A perfect antidote for a grey November.
Until, at 3:00 a.m., we were startled from sleep by the sound of a fire alarm. My first instinct was to throw a pillow over my head and ignore it. I was sure it was a false alarm, like those from years before in the dorm.
JB took a different approach. He jumped out of bed, got dressed and started the process of layering our kids for the cold. While splashing water on my face and throwing on some clothes, I heard the beginnings of a frightened wail. The kids were all upset, but our eight-year-old son was absolutely terrified.
The sound of the alarm was deafening and the staff had come over the intercom to let us know where the alarm was triggered. He's a very smart kid and knew right away the area of concern was directly underneath our room.
He was shaking so hard he could barely stand. It's been years since I've carried him around my hip, but I did — down 10 flights of stairs. And while I did my best to reassure him, he continued to sob, "I don't want anything bad to happen. I don't want anyone to be hurt."
It wasn't until we found ourselves clustered outside, watching the firemen enter the building, that it hit me. It was possible we had just escaped a dangerous situation. Fires do happen.
We had no idea what was happening, but we were safe.
We sat on a floor for over an hour and I watched the way my kids kept a part of themselves pressed up against one another. I felt overwhelmed. I felt grateful. I felt indebted to my take-charge husband.
Everything ended up being okay. Nothing bad happened, no one was hurt. But sleep didn't return for me.
I kept going back to how afraid my kids were. And I can't stop thinking of the many displaced families across the world, who have a singular goal each day — to stay together.
Over dinner tonight, we talked about families and hurricanes and war.
Last night may have been a false alarm, but it was still a wake-up call.
Our family will head into this season of giving with our eyes wide open.
And that makes us lucky for more reason than one.
During this time of late night lights, please make sure the smoke detectors in your home are in working order.