Craft Beer, Fine Wine, Artisan Spirits, and Mouthgasmic Food.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Help out some totally awesome Austinites

Update from Steve Basil on Jan. 6th (great opportunity to help out with food): 

Some friends have insisted (over the protests of Jack & Veek) on establishing a Care Calendar, for people who might want to make a dinner for the family once in a while.  The plan is to aim for a delivered dinner every other day for a bit till things settle down, and use the interim days for tasty leftovers.  The care calendar is an online thing, so if you like to cook and feel like whipping up a casserole or salad or some such, it would go a long way to relieving some stress and making this getting settled period just a bit easier.  You can choose a date and a meal and fill in the blanks online:

To access Jack and Vicki Newton's personal CareCalendar site, visit http://www.carecalenda... and enter the following information in the appropriate spaces:

   CALENDAR ID      :   29459
   SECURITY CODE :   1809

Tears of joy are the rule these days, after waves of sadness in the immediate aftermath of the fire.  It's a roller-coaster of emotion for all to be sure, but you good people make certain that the ups are overpowering the downs in a big way.

Update from Jack on Dec. 30. :
Well folks, I have time tonight to sit down and write a short update.

We are currently in our second house since the fire on Christmas morning.  The first two nights we spent at the house right next door, the home of two of our best friends.  It was at that house we began to see the stream of people taking time from their family holidays to come and make sure we were ok.  We moved to a second home last night, a beautiful large home of  a family away on a vacation.  All of us, human and canine, are safe and warm.  Later this week we'll move back to the house next door to our now-burned home, and stay there for the weekend, hopefully with a firm plan of more permanent temporary housing (is there such a thing as "permanent temporary"?) in place for us to start getting back to normal.

On Christmas Eve we went to church and then to our traditional family dinner at Kobe.  Veek and I went to bed at about 11:30, and planned on sleeping late on Christmas morning and then opening gifts.  At about 4:30 a.m. we were awakened by the shrieking of our smoke alarms, and then very soon thereafter our son was banging on our door and yelling that the "deck was on fire".

We rushed out of bed and ran into our living room with the intent of sizing up the problem.  The smoke was thick but not unbearable in the living room, but it was obvious that it was getting worse by the second, so we yelled at the kids to get out of the house and we abandoned any efforts at opening windows and called 911.  Once outside on the front lawn, we did our quick head count and realized that our puppy Fenway was not with us, but was in fact in her crate in my office on the right side of the house (opposite of where the rest of us had been).  I ran back into the house and grabbed her crate and rushed back outside.  To tell you the truth, I violated one of the cardinal rules of fires - once you leave a burning structure, you are never supposed to go back in - but the smoke hadn't seem that bad.  Had I known what I would have found when I went back in, I most likely would not have gone.  In the office where Fenway was, the smoke was black and thick and had reached down from the ceiling to about my waist.  I bent down to try and minimize my exposure, and when I reached her crate, I could plainly see our family room completely engulfed in flames, from floor to ceiling.  The flames were about three feet from Fenway's crate, but the french doors and wall prevented us from getting burned.  Bottom line is that Fenway and I got out ok, and just in time.

In the five or ten total minutes from the moment we were awakened to the time we were all on the lawn, the fire progressed to the point where flames were shooting out the front door of our house.  A total of six ladder trucks were eventually called in, the fire burned for 45 minutes.
The incident commander told Veek and I that in his 15 years of fighting fires, he had never seen a fire of such intensity and at that time of the morning where everyone got out safely.  He was the first person to begin to drive home the message that we saved the only truly valuable items - ourselves.

We were all checked our medically, and except for some throat raw-ness and some irritation around our eyes and mouths, we were fine.

Within minutes neighbors began to flood the street and begin to care for us and the dogs.  Within an hour, friends  began to arrive to do the same.  We were repeatedly reassured that we were not going to be in the situation alone, etc.

Once the firefighters had battled the fire and then worked hard to make sure everything was out and safe, we were allowed to look at the house.  The commander suggested that I go first, as the damage would be shocking and he wanted me to be ready to support Veek when she saw it.  As it was, my knees buckled when I approached what had been our front doors.  Instead of seeing the hallway wall which used to be there, I could now see all the way to our neighbor's house on the other side of our backyard fence.  Our living room, our family room (Where I had seen the flames when grabbing Fenway), our office and kitchen had been reduced to ashes.  Very little recognizable items were left - every couch, chair, desk, television, table, etc. was just.... gone.

We then went to the bedroom wing of our house, which had suffered severe smoke and heat damage, but not direct flame.  That  side of our house was more eerie than dramatically burned.  Every single surface was either  matte black or dark grey.  If you moved an item, it's "footprint" was left behind.  Fixtures had melted.  Smoke had gotten into every crack and crevace - closed  drawers, whatever.

Some one came to tell me that Veek was insisting on going in, so I went outside to try to prepare her.  Being in shock myself, I couldn't think of anything more eloquent than "Honey, it's all gone.  You have to understand me, it's all gone.", but like me, when she approached the front doors, she fairly collapsed into tears.

I can't describe the devastation any more than that.  Today I took some photos inside and hopefully soon I'll be able to get them off the camera to share with you.  Suffice to say, you couldn't have done a better job of torching a house if you tried.
As the news started to filter out, quite literally about 35 friends and their families started to arrive at the scene to offer comfort, money, living, food, etc.  This began what  has seemed to be an endless  stream of incredible generosity and compassion which reduces Veek and I to tears multiple times a day.  At no point did we ever feel alone, there were always people with us to hold us, to reassure us, to just let us cry.

People pressed envelopes into our hands stuffed with twenties and gift cards.  People brought bags of clothes and toiletries.  Then as word got out on avenues like Yelp and Facebook and groups from companies (exTivoli, exConvex), we started to see people we haven't seen nor spoken with in years.  I mean, I don't know how to describe the emotions we had repeatedly as folks from all walks of our life started appearing to offer whatever they could.  And incredibly enough, it has barely lessened now days later.

I thought a lot about people who don't get such support when a fire strikes them, imagining them in a public shelter, with very little comfort surrounding them.  I fought the urge to break down thinking of the loss we'd suffered - my grandfather's desk now gone, our videos of the children when they were small, etc.  I kept trying to focus on the amazing display of kindness and love which we were witnessing.  I cannot possibly come up with the hyperbole to describe the response.

There are a thousand little stories to tell - here's one.  On Christmas night someone showed  up at a neighbor's house with a bag of wrapped presents for our kids to have a Christmas.  Total strangers.  My son opened up the one marked "Teenage Boy" to discover a Wii system and games.  Now folks, you can't buy that on Christmas, you know they had to take that from their own presents to give it to our son.

We got literally thousands of articles of clothing in 24 hours, plenty to make sure that we could go outside and be warm and dry.  Strangely enough, not  one pair of shoes which fit my wide flat feet, so I wore a pair of cheapo fur-lined fake  crocs my daughter's friend bought at Walgreen's on Christmas day.  But we were brought to a friend's house that evening, where to our surprise about 10 families had cancelled their home celebrations to bring all their dinners to one place and share a communal Christmas with us.  Amazing.

 Posted Dec. 25th:
Jack Dn and Veek Newton are some Awesome Austinites.  Kind, generous, wise, supportive, and totally cool are just a few words I would use to describe them.  Jack and Veek are parents to Aly and Emmet and owners to very cute puppies.  Jack and Veek were a tremendous help to the Cupcake Smackdown1.0.  As you might remember, Veek was the woman rushing around getting cupcake samples to the judges.  Jack was behind his camera taking fantastic photos of the cupcake riot.

Veek at Cupcake Smackdown. Photo by Jack Dn.

Jack judging at the Chef Showdown. Photo by John Knox.

Fenway by John Knox

Unfortunately, Jack, Veek, Aly, and Emmet didn't have the type of Christmas that any of us hope to have.  Their home was caught fire, and they all (puppies included) managed to escape unharmed thanks to smoke detectors.  All members of the family are safe and have adequate clothing for the time being.  Additional donations (monetary or material items) can be dropped off at B.D. Riley's.

B.D. Riley's Irish Pub
204 East 6th Street
Austin TX 78701

Paypal donations can be made through B.D. Riley's Website:  Their story will also be featured on Austin Fox News Today, Friday, Dec. 25th, at 5pm. Please help these Austinites as they have been a wonderful part of our community.  Merry Christmas!

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