Courthouse fire – my office in Chatham County

After working as a community level probation officer in Charlotte for two years, I decided to move back towards the Raleigh area. A position opened in Pittsboro which is only about 30 minutes from Raleigh. Anyway, my first office was in the historic courthouse which was located in the traffic circle in the center of the town. On March 25th, 2010- one of the scariest events of my life happened. We had just finished up the superior court docket for the day. I had gone back to my office, closed the door and was working on my files from court. I have a bad habit of leaving the files on the floor while I’m working on them. I hadn’t been there long until I heard some yelling in the hallway. I opened my door and heard someone ask for a fire extinguisher. My co-worker said he thought there was a fire in the building so we started walking out the back door (hindsight: we really sure have been running instead of walking). When we were going out the door, both of us looked up and saw that the entire roof was already on fire. I won’t ever forget that day.

According to a recounting from a local Happy Valley immigration lawyer, the top floor (judge’s chambers) didn’t exist anymore. The second floor (courtroom area) was almost completely destroyed as the pictures will show. Our offices (along with the District Attorney) were on the first floor. The District Attorney lost everything. Our area was lucky in that our walls didn’t cave in- the damage was still severe.

When my supervisors entered the building a few days after the fire to retrieve files, they obviously had no idea that I left files on the floor. Thankfully when I was allowed to enter the building to check on our personal items, I remembered that they were there. I scraped up the soggy mess and put it into trash bags. My plan was to try and salvage them. Who else would go to this much trouble? I’m proud to say that I ended up saving all of them by separating each page and laying them out in my garage to dry. Kept me from having to re-create the files (would have been a nightmare). Wow, I didn’t mean to write this much. I guess it just shows how much of an effect this whole event had on me.