In October 2002, my family (and a dozen other families) were victims of an arson attack. Our homes weren’t destroyed, but it didn’t make the pain of loss any less. All of the hut owners had worked hard to keep their huts secure from break-ins. Lots of the hut owners had a great number of personal possessions in the huts because it was a home-from-home.
I was devastated by the fire – as were others who were effected. I was 16-years-old and I’d never really experienced “loss” like this. If Grandad had his way, he would have walked away from it, but he had nagging voices not to. Mine was one.
The day after the fire I was taken to the scene (I am the one in blue) where I was able to roam around in the rubble of what once was my sanctuary. Sadly, I could identify things – the sofa, the toilet, Nanna’s bed. A set of books that Nanna had were in perfect condition on the inside, but we binned them anyway. Other huts had just burnt to ashes. It was so sad and yes, a lot of us grieved.
Nothing made anything feel better. I was 16 at the time, but even I knew that no one would be bought to justice. I heard the adults talking and I realised that the owners would have to fund this mostly by themselves. We had an/no idea who did it – no one has been held accountable for the devastation that they caused (most likely to be teenagers) so the most that I could do was write a letter to the local newspaper.
When writing the letter, I didn’t for one moment imagine that I would be published in the newspaper…
The following year (summer 2003) the replacement huts went up. Our hut was built by my Grandad’s very own hands, with a lot of blood, sweat and tears. In fact, during the summer of 2003, I didn’t realise anyone could smell as bad as Grandad did – he worked solidly without many showers!! And what we built, I was proud of – because, Grandad had built it. But, also, we realised what a community was all about. Others who hadn’t been a victim were always happy to help and they offered things that they were otherwise getting rid of. Although this event was utterly devastating, it was also the first time in my life that I knew what a community was.