“Never Underestimate the Power of Books” by Terri Fitzsimmons

The other night I was discussing how books had influenced me over the course of my life. My friend said that books were her savior, that they transported her out of her dreary existence into a marvelous world where there was hope and opportunities for a better future. I was immediately reminded of Emily Dickinson: “There is no frigate like a book to take us lands away.”

On the evening of November 8, 2018, I left the Wal-Mart Store with all my possessions in one bag, underclothes, pajamas, toiletries, and a change of clothing. The Campfire had robbed me of everything, including my identity. I was left with nothing.

After dealing with my initial horror, anger, and grief, I realized I was mistaken. I had a treasure chest in my smartphone, a library filled with all my inspirational books. “Books are like people, in that they’ll turn up in your life when you need them most.” (Emma Thompson).

As I went through these books, I found golden gems to help me recover: “Knowledge is useless unless it is applied.” I realized that I had all the knowledge at my fingertips. Now I needed to put it into action. “Out of the ruins comes transformation” became my mantra. I was truly the Phoenix rising from the ashes. Buried in the ashes was the person I was before the fire. I had to lose everything to gain everything.

My journal writing now shifted from self-pity to a resolution to thrive. My therapist encouraged me to publish my journals to help other fire survivors. My transformation was now in print, and I could share it with them.

When I think of my life before the fire, my tranquil existence, having deer roam in our backyard, William Wordsworth says, “What though the radiance which was once so bright be now for ever taken from my sight, Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower, we will grieve not, rather find strength in what remains behind.”

We will face tragedies in life, but books will always provide us with the solace we need.