On a Saturday night in 2016, a cultural icon in Omaha burned to the ground.
A beautiful building in the center of Omaha’s Old Market that housed lives, careers, art.
Several businesses were lost that day. One in particular was a restaurant lined with mirrors, a turn-of-the-century solid wood bar, and exquisite wood details that ultimately aided in the building’s demise. I had just started my downtown life after moving in with my boyfriend, but the somber aura downtown left me in tears at dinner.
How could I enjoy our meal, when so many people’s lives were changing right behind me? “How terrifying!” we overheard our waitress remark to her coworker before coming back over to cheerfully ask if everything was tasting alright.
Later that night, my boyfriend and I walked to the scene and were confronted with a realization that this burning building could have been our own. Our apartment, just a block away, was visible through the smoke. Rumors started to circulate that the entire block was in danger of going up in flames.
We went home and packed an emergency overnight bag and made sure Andy’s dog, Chewie, had all the things he needed incase we needed to suddenly leave.
Then, we packed the things we didn’t want to leave behind.
We packed the things we would actually grab if our building were to catch fire. The activity that makes for fun Instagram posts and conversation starters, but you only vaguely think you might have to do some day.
The thing that a lot of people just a block away didn’t get the chance to do.
It was strangely cathartic, to pack away these things that represented a life I wanted to preserve.
I found my little bag was filled with gifts from dear friends and loved ones.
1. Wolfy, my beloved stuffed animal.
2. A 5 year Q&A book Antonia gave me – Andy and I had started to fill up the book with our answers, I didn’t want to lose a documentation of our first year together.
3. Ceramic whisky glasses Emily made and gifted to me when I moved in with Andy.
4. Two small art prints from Jessica and Miranda, one from the Georgia O’Keef museum, one was a celebration of a Friendsaversary. Small reminders of their beautiful friendships.
5. A matryoshka doll from my aunt’s travels abroad.
6. Records my dad and boyfriend have gifted me, both old and new.
7. My Cannon DSLR, a graduation gift from my parents when I graduated grad school. My mom had just given me a new lens.
8. An afghan crocheted for me by my mom’s best friend when I graduated high school.
9. A bracelet and a scarf my mom had given me, a token from our trip to San Diego last February and her trip to Paris, respectively.
I know things are ultimately just things. Stuff that could be replaced by the insurance check. But, when faced with the dark probability of starting over, and given the option, this bag is what I wanted with me.
My heart goes out to those who did not have the moment to save something they cannot replace.