She grew up in Spooner, in Norheastern Wisconsin and was working in the advertising department of the local newspaper when we hired her. I hired her. I did the interviewing and made the recommendation that she was the one. She was a cheerleader in college and the Girl Scout equivalent of an Eagle Scout. She’s also a motorhead, a major car enthusiast. My first clue that she was the choice, was that when she took the computer graphic competency test, she admitted to me that she hadn’t used Illustrator much, only FreeHand (MacroMedia’s version of Adobe’s great drawing program) but she finished the test in plenty of time without ever looking even slightly flustered. She said all the right things in the interview and had a proven track record in a similar, high volume production environment. It wasn’t until she was on the job that I realized she also had a great mind for process and a head for detail,something not all artists possess, including me. The day she walked on the floor out of training, she was producing 133% of the minimum. In short a great employee.
Yesterday morning she called me, in tears. “I won’t be able to make it into work today, our house is on fire.” She said it started in the garage and the fire department almost had it out and she didn’t know how much damage there was. She didn’t say that she’d been taken to an ambulance because the smoke and excitement and sobbing had set off a major asthma attack. Or that her contacts were still in the house and she’s pretty much blind without them. She left me the number of the cel phone a neighbor had given them to use. She called back later and left a message that she and Dan were unhurt but the house was “gone.”
They were getting ready for work in the morning when they heard noises in the garage. They thought someone might be breaking in. Dan went to check, as he worked his way to that side of the house he saw smoke. He yelled for her to call 911 and grabbed a fire extinguisher. Then he made a mistake. It’s obvious when you hear it, but who knows what any of us would do in a situation like that. I’m not sure I would stop to ponder thermodynamics. He opened the garage door. The air rushed in and the smoldering fire exploded. The house started to fill with smoke, he ran to the front door and pounded, yelling for her to get out. She couldn’t get out that way, she was cut off by the smoke. She opened the window and began screaming for help. He ran around the house and caught her as she jumped from a story and a half. I’m sure that her cheerleading experience contributed to a gracefull defenestration.
The house burned to the foundation. The two collector Mustangs melted in the garage. Their work cars, parked in the driveway, caught fire and burned. They were left with nothing but the clothes they were wearing. Thank god they got out. When I called later in the day to ask if there was any way I could help, she had calmed down and seemed amazingly positive. It sounded like they’d already gotten things under control and had a plan to get by in the near future. Such level headedness and resiliency from such a young woman. Them Cheeseheads are tough.