Friday, 12 July 2013

Guardian Angels

It happened on July 2nd around 9:30 am.
It was a noise, so loud and unknown, that no one could identify what it was.
One had to run…to run from something unnamed and terrible.
When I opened my bedroom door, I saw the street and a burned neighbor crying for help.
The stairs were filled with glass, wood and debris. The phone call to 911 was messy: “An explosion, on Conde das Antas Street, in Campolide it’s serious.” “We already know!”
Everything was black, and the fire was starting, wrapped in an even darker smoke. Terrifying.
What about the grandson, who I had heard in the backyard just before? He was alright, Anabela cried. “I heard a noise, a candle fell on my nose, and I cried”. To take him away from the fire was imperative; friends from the office appeared as by miracle in the garden and came towards us; we left, towards the corner to peek at the fire.
Cars burning in the street, one first, then another and another. A jeep burning beneath my window. How to avoid fire? A hose? The house is going to burn…No one can think straight in these circumstances.
A man filled with glass cuts laying on the street. Ambulances arrive. The firefighters arrive and quickly put out the fire.
We are together and each one tells her story. Ana watched a bus stopped because someone had their car blocking its way and opened the window. The explosion threw her underneath another desk and filled her with glasses, she fainted but, Sofia, who had also been hit by glasses, came to her aid, and both were unharmed, other than a small pain resulting from the fall. Ana V. entered the corner where the computers are seconds before the explosion, which meant she saved herself from all debris thrown like bullets. Teresa and Vera had just left, a minute before the explosion and when it happened, they were safe on the next street. Deolinda was in the gym and ran towards the others. They ran to the garden in search of a safe haven. Everybody was alright.
There weren’t any patients in the Office. The one who had just made an exam had just left, the one who had an EEG appointment at 9:30 had canceled, another forgot her consultation. For unexplained reasons, I had canceled that day’s appointments.
I now look back. I was feeling a bit lazy and took longer to get up, and it was those precise seconds that saved me from a rather certain death. We had all escaped by a narrow edge.
This street, where there’s usually a fair amount of traffic was empty, no cars were passing by when the explosion happened. The bus went on his way moments before, taking all its passengers with him.
A neighbor, whose jeep burned, harassed himself for a moment, then looked to his parents’ home completely destroyed an thought: “They went away in vacation just yesterday and are all right. What a relief!”
An elderly grandmother had just gone somewhere with her grandson, took a bit longer than she should have coming back; she was on the corner of the street, away and safe from any danger.
The destruction was monumental, doors, glass and windows had disappeared in three buildings; the fire had ravaged  the street, there were broken glasses in many locations through the surrounding streets.
Many helped us: our neighborhood’s delegate, Dr. André Couto, was flawless, and like him, both his staff, the Police and the civil protection.
I thought how good it was to have a 19th and 20th century house, with such sound foundations, whose structure resisted the impact, and I mentally thanked the Pereira Coutinho family.
Friends called giving comfort and asking “What can I do?” It was good, very good.
I called my daughter and my son-in-law. “It was bad…” They rushed over to give an enormous help and an invaluable support.
But we were alright, protected by forces bigger than ourselves and that, one by one, took care of us. Without a single injury in a sea of debris.
The guardian angels had protected the Practice and had taken care of us.
A deep appreciation; a deeper gratitude, because as we pray in the “Our Father”, “we had been delivered from Evil”.
When I am told “What bad luck!” I think, “No, we were very lucky!”
And this is how, together, we are putting things back up, as a strong and united team.
And today, now that the worse is behind us, I feel the guardian angel’s protection hovering over this house and quietly go to sleep.

Professor Teresa Paiva

Lisbon, July 11 2013

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