I had to think long and hard about insurance and why it is important to me. My parents have always had insurance, whether for the car, home or a person. I never really thought of why it is important, but I always knew you have to have it. So I was raised with the understanding that this was normal. At first I wasn’t sure of its true purpose, like what was the benefit of having insurance versus tucking the monthly payment away into an account in case you needed it in the future. Then I thought, having insurance is like betting on something bad happening, for example you insure your car because you are assuming you are going to get in an accident so you will need coverage. And finally, I got to see first-hand what it is like to have insurance and what it is like NOT to have insurance.
Back in May 2014, there was a fire that started close to my neighborhood. I remember being in high school when the fires started. They closed the school and everyone was sent home. My brother was in middle school at the time and came home very upset. He could see the flames off in the distance on his way home from school. I remember my brother running in the house terrified that it was going to get our house. My mother had us keep all the doors closed so the smoke wouldn’t get in as we kept a close eye on the news. Then my dad came home because the fire was in between his office and our house. I remember watching the news, not believing what was happening. I recognized the streets that the homes were on. Then the fire was close to an elementary school that I often played soccer at. We were watching as the fire department desperately tried to stop the fire from reaching the school. Outside the sky was dark, creating a very unsettling feeling and our backyard was layered with ash as it fell like snow. I remember the sun being an eerie bright orange, as it peeked through the darkened sky.
As we were watching the TV my mom recognized a street address that was being evacuated because the fire had jump a major road and was heading to a small housing area. Mom called her friend who lived on that street and found out she and her family were camped out at the local Starbucks with their pets, their cars stuffed with everything they could grab. She told my mom her neighbor had stayed back to spray down his roof and she was concerned for him.
I don’t remember how long the fire lasted. I remember just waiting, wondering if we were going to have to be evacuated and what I would take with me. My parents seemed very confident that we were going to be okay. My grandmother, however was not quite as calm. She kept insisting we head south and stay with her in San Diego. Eventually, the fires were under control. The sky slowly cleared and everything returned to normal.
In the aftermath of the fire, we drove around where the fire had been and what we saw was devastating. However, the elementary school I where I played soccer was saved. The school was surrounded by charred landscape right up to the edge of the school.
My mom’s friend was lucky too. The fire did not reach her house. However, her house was filled with smoke. To clean up you can’t simply open the windows and let fresh air in. Fortunately, she did have insurance. The insurance covered the three weeks she and her family had to leave their home to stay in a hotel while her house was cleaned up. They needed to come in and remove all of her furniture to be cleaned, scrub all the walls and floors and replace the insulation in her attic.
Her neighbor wasn’t as fortunate. His house was located at the end of the cul da sac. New homes were built around his so his home was older than the other houses in the neighborhood. His home and garage were made of wood instead of stucco and went up like timber. His house backed up to empty land filled with very dry bushes which bordered the road the fire had jumped. He had three old, classic cars located on the property and many priceless items left by his parents, along with everything he owned, which was lost except for the old garage. The worst part was he didn’t have insurance. He said he needed a new refrigerator so he paid for that instead of his home insurance. A fund was started for him but without insurance he couldn’t afford to rebuild. His was the only home in that entire area that burned down. I never found out what ended up happening to him but I drive by the area once in a while and the house and garage are gone. Since he had no insurance I don’t anticipate seeing new construction going up. Maybe he will sell the property and start over. It is sad to see the devastation that not having insurance can do to a person’s life.
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