Monday, July 7, 2014

Light 'Em Up Up

So we left off here.  Our Ford Freestar spontaneously caught on fire :(  Go back and read that one if you want more details on how we got here.

Lets see...  I last wrote about when we were dropped off by the police at the diner.

After cleaning off the soot on our hands and faces at the diner, we felt much more grounded.  Once my parents got there we had to devise a plan on who went where.  We decided it was best that Eve go with my parents in their minivan, and we would head back home with the boys in the their SUV (they brought both).  We didn't really like the idea of leaving Eve after such a startling event, but she really wanted to see my Grandpa (who's mother had just died).

In the police cruiser on the way to the diner I'm sure Eve bummed out the police officer a bit.  "Mom, are we still going to go the funeral?" Pause.  "I don't think so, honey" "But... but I really wanted to see Grandpa again."  "I know.  Me too."  Sounded a lot like my Grandpa had died the way Eve worded it, heh.  Still, I was pretty sad I wouldn't be there to comfort him either.  I wasn't an easy choice to go home, but I didn't see any other reasonable thing to do.

Taken from the opposite side we were on during the fire
Zoomed in
Pile of burned van still around, Even a month later

Anyway, we gathered up what we had and nervously parted ways with my parents and Eve around 9:10pm.   We drove right past our van shaped burn spot (it really is the only road across southern Vermont) to head back home.  We get to Brattleburo, VT, about 20 minutes later and traffic has stopped.  We see a ton of people milling around, hanging out at a gas station, parked all over.  We went into the gas station and asked what was up.    Apparently, there was a bomb threat at the Dollar General.

Seriously?  Who places a bomb threat at the Dollar General???  This is dang crappy luck.

We turn back around, and drive past our burn spot one more time, and head to the town we were dropped off at.  We give up and find a motel for the night.  We had nothing to change the boys into, as we didn't know what the extent of the damage was to our clothes.  So we took the boys out of the sooty clothes and had them sleep in undies.  Well, actually we did find an undamaged diaper in one of the burned bags, and put that on Isaac.

We figured we ought to still try sorting and salvaging what we had left that night.  So we made a 'completely damaged' trash bag and a 'wash' trash bag.  We noticed a laundromat right near the motel, so Jon took the wash bag to the laundromat right away. 

I stayed home and started drying out things that just seemed to be wet with no damage and started making made a list of things that I knew were left burned in our car.  I also cleaned up my foot, because unbeknownst to me, had actually gotten cut while I was barefoot.  It was quite dirty, but  thankfully the bad luck streak had ended and I didn't get an infection from it. 

The next morning, Jon and I got all showered, the undamaged clothes were dry, Jon picked up a few things at the local Shaws (clean garbage bags for the clean clothes) and we were able to head back on our journey home, past our burned spot... again.  Thankfully, the dollar general was deemed bomb free, and we able to pass onward.

We stopped in the Dunkin Donuts in Brattleburo, got breakfast, and chatted with some locals.  They were related to the owner of another towing company in the area (not the one that took our car). But they did give us some good info on towing/scrapping in the area.

And then we were headed back on our way home.  Since our GPS was in the van, of course we were going on memory alone.  So about 10 minutes after we left Dunkin Donuts we missed a turn, of course, which shot us up surprisingly north to Putney, VT, which we had found out which was where our car was towed to.  And funny enough, we had to drive right by Rod's Towing to even turn around, so we decided to pull in, exchange info.... and say goodbye to our car.  (All these pictures were taken by my Mom later when they came back through.  We didn't have a camera on us)

So here it is.  Our $7500, SEL Ford Freestar.  It was a great purchase for our growing family.  Power sliding doors.  DVD player.  Folding back seat.  Only had 96,000 miles on it so far.  We just put on new tires last summer.  See them there?  About $1000 in tires.   This thing hauled a whole lot of plywood and 2x4's.. and kids. We once fit three rearfacing seats and one forward facing seat in there for a 8 hour trip.... Memories....

It's funny how attached I am to the actual van, even despite it's glaring flaws.  And it's inspection for the summer was scheduled three days later!  Gah.  The what-ifs bother me, just a little.

Lets take a closer look, shall we? You can see that my door, which was open the whole time, was the only thing left with the paint color on.  I guess it was just barely out of the range of being too hot to burn the paint.

A few things strike me as funny.  The plush thick headrests... are small pieces of bent wire.  That's it.  The steering wheel is actually in the picture above; it's that circular wire leaning against the driver seat.  The fusebox is on the passenger seat because I had moved it there looking for my 'purse'.  It was actually at the feet of the passenger seat on the floor... with a bunch of owners manuals!  Apparently, the fire didn't burn long enough to burn through everything in the glove box, because there was still a ton of it left.

 Back to my purse.  After some chipping away at the melted floor (and all other melted plastic stuck to it) Jon came up with nothing that looked like my purse.  So I glanced around where I though I would have left it, and right away I found it!  Of course, by 'it' I mean the small, round, magnetic clasp that held my keys in.  Still, I grabbed the piece of the car we were using to chip away the melted plastic, and chiseled out a black lump I could tell was my purse... and my keys.  I'm so glad I found it... but I'll get back to that later.

I did find the 'kindle' right between the two seats, where I left it.  There was a piece of metal, that I assume was the back, along with some really super thing glass, all vertical in a line.  I wish I had gotten a picture of that (but we had no camera on us).  I found a tin can in there, which I had stored in a plastic compartment in the car.  No sign of the compartment, but the can was there. 

If I had gloves (and a camera), I would have scoured the car more... curiously got to me.  I knew where everything was in that car, and I wanted to see what was left after it had been in a really high temperature fire.  Probably the engineer in me.

This is the second row of the car.  We rescued the boys seats out of there, but a few carseat accessories were left behind.  I still need to replace those.  The firemen/firewomen threw a bunch of the exploded car and contaminated dirt in the van.  I think doing that is actually part of the hazmat cleanup.

The back seat.  See eve's carseat over there?  It's the one in the seat farthest to us?  No?  Well, I couldn't really find it there either, but I'm positive I installed it over there before I left.... so it's there.  (And actually, looking at this shot closely, I can see a part I painstakingly replaced over in the side there. It's the motor to the power sliding door and the cable that pulls he door...  sighs...) 

As I said before, the fire people through anything on the side of the road that was trash in there.  All of their car blankets didn't make it.  I wasn't planning on telling the kids until later, but they saw it in the van as it was towed by us.  I had a socket set, and a few other car things in the back too.

So, that's pretty much the carnage that we were left with after the fire.  Once we said goodbye to our car for good, we were on way back home...  which was thankfully uneventful.

Now home, it was time for the clean up work.  The first thing we did of course, was to call our insurance agent.  This is where it went from bad... to sad.  I was told that we weren't covered for this kind of loss.  Total shock, even though I shouldn't have been.  I never really look at the statement we pay.  Most everything we have is on auto-deduct and AllState sends out ssooooo much junk mail, I usually don't read any of it.  We didn't have comprehensive or collision. To keep it short after a few days, we figured out how much it really was our fault.  When we bought this van we knew it was worth adding real coverage on it outside of libility, since our previous junkers weren't worth it.  However, when they looked up our phone records it stated "Called Cassie. She will talk to husband and get back to us" and a few weeks later "Called Jon, he will talk to wife and get back to us".

Yep.  We suck.  We're that couple who doesn't really talk about life stuff much and really doesn't like using phones.  We were both happy to pass the chore of calling them back on each other, and unintentionally, neither of us ended up doing it.

After my initial shock of having to recover with just our limited, these-are-my-wood-floors savings, it was onto trying to salvage what we could from our stuff.  And try to plan for what to do about getting a vehicle.  While I was really upset about my stupidity, I know that we've made it through much worse financial situations, and much of what we lost was replaceable.   It's a big step back for us, but we trusted in God, and knew that our life is much more than Kindles or carseats.

Thankfully, it was mostly contained to the hat and Stuffy survives on hatless!
(It's just stuffed with other burned stuff)
3 Lands Ends Jackets - Almost New, sized for the 2015 Winter :(

I don't have a whole lot of pictures for our stuff.  Some of it was in the car and there's no trace that it was in there are all. Only my memories of packing it (which are really strong, I made the list that night), and it not being here is what I have to go on.  We didn't find the pillows.  We found one burned pillow case... and that's it.  Which is odd, because it had a pillow in it, and it was in a plastic bag with 2 other pillows.  So finding it alone and empty... a little weird.

Triple bagged purse.

I decided to hang up my purse as usual when I got home.  Welcome to the weird kind of humor Jon has to deal with daily.

Actually used one of these keys to get into my Mom's house.
The plastic keycard I use to get into work... with its wire guts sticking out.
My 'purse' un-wadded

A few days later, I went outside to salvage my purse, and took these pictures.  Even outside, the fumes were BAD, so after I took note of all the information I needed, I double bagged everything and saved it for the chance of needing it later.

I am so glad I recovered my purse. Pulling apart my cards, at least 2 bank accounts and 3 credit cards could have been used, not included any identity theft that could have occurred.  I even used one of those cards online to try to order replacement sandals... the right ones never were shipped though.  Odds of someone finding it are low... but not a risk I'd be happy to task.

And finally, our laptop :(  Jon's still very sad about this one.
Most damaged corner

The exposed hard drive... next to a bunch of burned leaves.
 Lappy came out in pretty bad shape.  Worst though, was that the corner with the most damage was the one that held the hard drive.  Seemed like our luck was going from bad to worse.

Snapped mid-attempt

But our didn't get worse.  It got better!  The hard drive was completely intact, with just some color damage indicating heat.  Even the connection pins were still in tact.

After some research and quotes from hard drive restoration companies, we decided that the first thing that trained professionals would try... was hooking the harddrive up and trying it.  Evaluating the risk, cost and given that I spent some time working in IT, we decided to go for it ourselves.  We opened up our old PC and plugged it in.

Last we knew (2013ish) this desktop randomly shut off within minutes of being booted. We didn't really take the time to determine what was crashing it.... and just switched to using the 'new' laptop.  Remembering what little digging I had done, I was left suspecting a peripheral (extra HD/CD/Floppy disk/Graphics card).  I unplugged everything I could (couldn't take out he video card), just to give the desktop a fighting chance.

We turned it on and crossed our fingers.... Feeling doubly worried that not only the computer could turn of at any second (maybe even damaging the drive! ) and that the hard drive could start to damage itself while starting to spin up.

It started off with some smooth spinning sounds, passed the boot tests, and we made it onto windows.  Looking great so far... Yet, one thing we hadn't anticipated...  windows checks the entire drive for integrity before you can start viewing files.  So we had to endure 15 minutes of worrying (Don't shut down!) before we even knew if files were found.

It was worth the wait!  Every stinking file was there!  We quickly started the transfer of important documents and pictures.  Once that made it fine, we copied everything else to the external hard drive.

And as an extra bonus, we kept using this desktop for the next few days.  Never once shut off.  Must have been one of those disconnected peripherals.  So we have a computer again!  Yay!

[Edit: Not only did we get the hard drive out, when we started up home school again, wondered where the first Rosseta Sone disk had gone.  I realized I had tested it in the laptop when we bought it used.  After some chiseling and prying I was able to get the CD Drive open, and low and behold, there was the disk... and it still worked!  

Plus, the desktop is still working great... and and SD card we had left in there came out unscathed as well!  

"Thank God!" was certainly said a few times through this whole thing] 

So to wrap this thing up, here's the abridged list of what was damaged or lost completely.

Recaro Prosport Carseat & Britax Carseat Accessories
Acer Laptop
Kindle FireHD & Fire Case
Craftsman Socket/Ratchet/Screwdriver Set, Jumper Cables, Tire Inflator/Flashlight
Auto Emergency Hammer, Winding Flashlight, Ratcheting Tie Down
Toy Story 3 DVD, Chicken Run DVD, Cars DVD, Ice Age DVD, Frozen DVD Case, Little Joe/Sherluck Holmes Veggie Tales DVD
V7 GPS & 1 GB SD Card
Lecrae - Rehab CD & a lot of mixes
3 Standard Pillows & a body Pillow, 3 Pillow Cases, 2 Pillow Allergy Covers
2 Nap Mats, 3 Fleece Carseat Blankets
Eddie Bauer Diaper Bag, Changing Pad, Bumpkins Bib, XL Travel Wetbag
Mei Tai
Protocol Grey Duffel Bag
Clothes(PJ's, Shorts, undies, socks)
3 Lands End Kids Hoodies (ouch - these were for the next winter!)
DC Shoes Sandals, Men and Women's Dress Shoes
Crocodile Creek Backpack, Usborne "What Shall I Draw" Book, Clipboard, Girls Sunglasses
Purse & Gift Cards
I summed up the total loss of material items which was $2541.  Adding in fire expenses ($290) and the cost of the vehicle, and the total loss was $7818.  It absolutely stinks that we had a loss, but we are all safe and home, and that is really what matters.  We've made it through worse financially and have a good job to support us.

[ EDIT -  Instead of making a new post, I'm just going to keep editing this one.  No need to litter my blog with car fire news]

My family had asked me if it was okay if they started a gofundme account.  I was a bit hesitant.  I knew that we would make it out okay just 'roughing it' for a few months and saving money.  There are a lot of people in the world that have more desperate needs.  But my Mom had said a few people contacted them wanting to give, and not to "rob people of their blessing".  So I agreed, and my Mom set off hoping to raise $500 to help us with our immediate needs - mostly a new vehicle. I was blessed with rides to work from a coworker, but it was out of the way for him, and not a really  long term option. 

At this point, we didn't have the money for a replacement van and our other car (A Ford - Eek!) needed some hefty repairs... and had not been on the road for a while.  We stuck on deciding whether to get a different small car to tide us over or fix the Ford we had.  It was a really tough call.

I checked my facebook before I left work the day after my mom had set up the gofundme page.  I wasn't intending on looking at the gofundme page much, as it felt a little weird to be stalking donations.... but curiosity got me.  There was a bunch of shares from friends, and friends of friends.  People were commenting on there that I didn't even know.

Checking the page, it was over $1000.  Mind blown.

To keep this short- When all was said and done, we were given $5,025 and even more outside the fund through checks sent/delivered by friends, family and coworkers.  My company gave a some too, and a coworker I didn't know well just handed me a JCPenney giftcard and said they had seen it on a a mutual friend's facebook.

There was a very large donation in the bunch, and the donator requested that they are kept anonymous. So, despite Jon having to log in to redeem the money, we have not looked at who donated anonymously.  We haven't sent out the thank you I got yet  ::hangs head:::  but if you were the one of many who donated anonymously - THANK YOU!

I cried. And cried.  I cannot believe how generous people were to us.  To me.  To be honest, I kinda view myself as a jerk.  I have a lot of social anxiety and I'm a project focused (as opposed to people focused) kind of person.  I do actually like people, and while I'm not [often] intentionally mean, I have definitely found that I come off as rude and surly more then I knew.  And more regrettably, I've let my selfish anxieties keep people at a distance from myself, even allowing others to get hurt because of them.  Jon is a little better at maintaining relationships... but has some work to do too.

People gave to us even though we don't deserve it at all.   We're jerks.  We screwed up not getting insurance.  We screwed up not getting our inspection done earlier (Jon says it wouldn't have caught it, but I'm not convinced).  We weren't living paycheck to paycheck and have a good job.  I mean, this really challenged my thoughts on people, money and the world.  And then it came to on me.

This is grace.

Grace is getting what you don't deserve, and not getting what you do deserve.  I think this is an outpouring of grace, shown through love.  Consider me schooled.  I think God had a lesson here for me, and I heard it loud and clear.

People need grace. You need grace.  We are all jerks.  We have sinned and keep sinning... and the punishment for sin is death.  Jesus Christ came to give us grace.  He took the consequence for our actions, even though he had no obligation to do it.  That's my lesson.  God's grace is real, and grace is for everyone.  It's for you too.


Back to the story, I guess, though its importance wanes.

After lots of searching, we decided our best option was another minivan.  We had borrowed an SUV to try, and looked up many crossovers, but none were for us.  There aren't many minivan options either, and were able to narrow our ideal down to an older used Toyota Sienna.

Our Ford Freestar was a great car with a good reliability, but we aren't getting another one of those.  And after the company took us through a obvious horse and pony (even costing us more money) show to see if we could get some compensation .... I won't be buying another Ford again, that's for sure.

After some searching we decided on a the 2006 Toyota Sienna below.

Not at all what we were looking for for trim wise... as it's completely loaded.  Leather seats, side air bags, power everything, DVD, sunroof.... pretty much everything that year could offer.  We found that it had the best value compared to every other vehicle we looked at and was in better condition.  About 5k below book too.  We needed something that weekend (another trip to NY the next weekend), so even though it was the tippy top of our budget, and after walking away and sleeping on it.... the next day we got up and bought it.

We're hoping it will last us another 10 years.
(Thankfully we had a booster seat as a back up to Eve's seat)
The kids totally approve too.

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