We are all desperately saddened by the deaths of seven of the eight Sassoon children in the terrible fire in Midwood last week, and we pray that their mother and one surviving sister, both grievously injured, will survive. (See story, page 34.)
It is impossible to imagine what their father is feeling, and most likely it is unwise to try. All we can do is pray that he, too, can find healing, and that he can remember love as well as horror.
The whole remaining family will have to be surrounded by their community if they are to stand upright, and the community will need help as well. It is a nightmare horror.
There is a lesson to be learned from the tragedy, though.
We all have to be very careful with fire and with electricity. They are equal-opportunity killers. Wires fray, fat sizzles, surfaces overheat. Fire can erupt. It happens so infrequently that it’s easy to forget, to stop paying attention to the dangers, but none of us can afford to do that.
Also, please, everyone, get smoke detectors. Once you have them, check them every month. Make sure the batteries work. Make sure you have enough of them, place them so they cover your whole house, and try to get both kinds, ionization and photoelectric, so you will have warning of both flaming and smoldering fires. And pay attention to them.
Yes, they are annoying, yes, they often go off when you’re frying or toasting or sometimes just looking at it cross-eyed, but they can save your life, and your family’s.
Come up with an evacuation plan, and talk to your children about it. You should know what you are going to do before the panic-filled time when you realize that you actually are going to have to do it.
Take care on Shabbat. Use warming devices that are safe, and be sure that you are following the directions that come with them. Use common sense when you set out your candlesticks, and make sure that nothing – including your own hair or sleeves – get too near the flames.
For detailed, useful information, go to the National Fire Protection’s website, www.nfpa.org, and click on Safety Information.
Yes, all of this is just entirely basic common sense, but the stakes are incredibly high.
The images of the seven children when they were alive, staring into the camera, and then of the seven white-shrouded bodies, their father’s grief, their community’s bitter tears – we do not want ever to see such images again. There should not be such pain ever again.
The precautions are basic. Let’s all take them.
And may the memories of all the children be blessings.