In late January of this year (2015), a fire completely destroyed the gigantic apartment building we lived in. My wife and I were in the city that day. By the time we made it to the site, it was an inferno. We lost everything except the clothes we were wearing, identification, and our cell phones. For me, the hardest part was knowing how our dog, Jack, must have suffered alone until the end. The entire experience was very surreal, disorienting, almost paralyzing. There would never be an opportunity to jump into the huge pile of rubble to search for personal items. In an instant, we were completely cut off from a life we’d built for ourselves. It was gone. But Dedra and I were still here. And in the hours and days that followed, we’d find out how much our family, friends, and even strangers were there for us.
The people in charge of salvage operations for the fire have recovered one item for us, which they shipped to us last month. A small case that contained some cheap costume jewelry that was used in several photo shoots. Most of it was destroyed and the entire package reeked of the fire. I’ve had it tucked away for a couple of weeks. Today, we took it outside and I did what I do; I photographed it. That’s how I engaged. It’s an odd feeling, like making contact with something from a ghost life.
On occasion, I still find myself looking through drawers to find something, only to remember, “Oh, that’s right, we lost that in the fire.” It’s weird to know that something, anything, from that past life is back in our hands. It’s not the same as it used to be, of course. But nothing after that day is.