It's been a week since it happened. I think I can write about it now.
Last Tuesday, my daughter had a dentist appointment. On the way home, we stopped at the grocery store to get some tylenol for her and I heard sirens when I got out of the car. I didn't think much about it because there are always accidents on the busy road there. But when I was in the store, I got a phone call from my son.
"Mom," he said. "Something happened. There was an explosion and a house in our neighborhood is on fire." He sounded upset, so I quickly finished my checkout and ran out to the car. I could see the plume of smoke from there. On the drive home I kept thinking, please let it be one of the houses under construction. The closer I got, the more traffic and emergency vehicles I saw. My son was outside when we drove up and we walked over to my neighbor's yard where several people were gathered. We had a clear view from there, about 6 lots to the west, of the house burning---what was left of it, anyway. The whole backside of the house had just disappeared. We could see the rooms inside and a couch had been blown onto the roof of the house next door.
"It's the Roper's house," one of my neighbors said. "And April's still inside."
I'm not sure how long we stood there, watching. News trickled in from various neighbors. A gas man had also been inside with April. Her little girl, Olivia, was safe. Her husband was safe also, but completely distraught.
Life Flight came and landed. At first, we were hopeful. But it didn't take off. Another life Flight landed. It eventually took off, and we heard it had taken little Olivia to the hospital---just a precaution, we heard, she only had minor scrapes.
The evening wore on. The fire was under control, then it started up again. Smoke filled the neighborhood and we all smelled of smoke, too. Still no word on April.
News helicopters circled overhead. I wandered up to the police line and saw reporters gathered there, interviewing eyewitnesses. Was I an eyewitness? No, I told them.
The longer I watched the more I felt like I needed to do something. I saw a Red Cross truck drive by, so I went and offered my assistance. They had it under control, they said. The Relief Society President was there, too. She gave me a couple of jobs to do. One was taking a meal to a neighbor who had been outside the house with April's little girl. I heated up some frozen soup, but she wasn't home when I got there. I was able to help round up a propane heater for the families who were gathered outside, waiting for news. It was something.
News finally came around 10:00 pm. They found the bodies in the basement.
Tractors worked all night and by the next morning the house had been razed to the ground. But I still saw it all in front of me, the fire, water arching onto it, the smoke, helicopters and sirens. All day long snatches of conversation rolled around in my head, people telling where they'd been, what the blast had felt like. My neighbor's voice, "April's still inside."
I didn't know her well at all. They were new to the neighborhood. We'd paused in the hall on Sunday to repeat each other's names. And now, I would never have the chance to get to know her.
In the week since it happened, the images have faded a bit. After the first two days, I was able to go longer and longer without thinking about it. We've heard stories of the Lord preparing and protecting that little family, which have brought comfort. I'm sure that April is in a good place. I'm sure she'll do a good work where she is. But still, I feel for her husband. He must miss her so. And I feel sad for her 18 month old daughter, who probably won't remember her mother. I feel sad for the the rest of us, too, who will never have the chance to get to know and love April.