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Thursday, March 28, 2019

A day of memories!

I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Many have come to reference us as LDS or Mormon. We prefer to go by the full title, therefore including the name of our Savior, even Jesus Christ in our name. It is HIS church, and we need to be sure to give Him honor and respect always. The church is structured, organized and unified. I often find those surprised, shocked even, when we discuss the way things are run and put together with a church over 16 million members. The Lord himself structured it this way, and that is how and why it works.
One of the organizations within the church is a seminary class for youth ages 14-18. This class is held  all over the world, daily before school begins, often times in the home of a member, in a church house and in some places in a building just to the side of a high school campus, called a Seminary Building. We are blessed to host one of these classes in our 'man cave'. Each morning a group of about a dozen youth gather with a volunteer instructor to research, learn, discuss and feel the Spirit of God. 
Youth are invited to take four years of seminary. Each year studying on of "the gospels". Our church studies 4 different books of scripture, all that compliment one another and testify of Jesus Christ. The four years/books are the Bible: Old Testament, Bible: New Testament, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine & Covenants. This year they are blessed to be studying the latter mentioned. This book of scripture, often referred to as D&C, contains revelations given to a modern day prophet, Joseph Smith, during the Restoration of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It also has a few revlations given after his martyrdom. Just like school, the youth, who would like to receive a certificate of completion of seminary, are required to have so many hours or days of seminary instruction for each given year.
Over the last 2 1/2 months, we have experienced extreme weather in Missouri. Unfortunately this has caused many a snow day and cancellation of seminary.  Make up days were in order. The youth of our seminary, late last week, creatively thought of visiting one of our many Church History sites in Nauvoo Illinois as a make-up activity. We are only 3 1/2 hours away from Nauvoo and it could be a great day trip! 
The seminary teacher brought it up to Ward Council as an option. We agreed it was a wonderful idea. Brother Shurtleff (husband of the seminary teacher) explained that he and his wife would drive and could fit 5 youth in their car. Ryan said he would be out of town. Meg and I were sitting next to each other and said we would both drive, if needed, although with Ryan out of town Charlie and Jackson would need to go as well if I drove. Approval came from the Stake President Wednesday evening and the final plans were set into motion. 
Although we had originally planned for Saturday, the Nauvoo Temple didn't have any baptism for the dead spots available. The youth had Friday off of school for Spring Break so we moved the plans to Friday! 11 youth were available to go Friday which required another driver. We discussed having Meg drive our van and go with the youth and Charlie, Jack and I would stay home. However, she and I both wanted to go, and would enjoy visiting with each other along the way, so we elected to take my personal car, our family limousine. (If you know me and read this is doesn't surprise you, sorry for the shock to first time readers! Haha!)
I drive the limo almost always. Last June the boys bought a mini van and we do drive that also as a family. However, my favorite vehicle to drive and take is the limo. I sit up higher and can see over the dash better. The boys have more space to spread out. And, when they want to watch a movie I can put up the privacy window and sing loud to my jams (christian rock). Ryan and I talked about whether Meg should take her car and me take the van or just take the limo. The conversation kept coming back to "we have no reason to think we shouldn't take the limo or that there would be any problems". We also then discussed, if someone wasn't to show up and we could take fewer cars, or smaller cars, then we would do that. Thursday evening during my personal prayers I said "Father I have chosen to take the limo on tomorrow's outing. If I shouldn't take it, for any reason, please let me know. Again Friday morning, one last time, "Father I am taking the limo today with the kids to Nauvoo. If I shouldn't take it, please let me know." I speak with my Father often, and he does answer my prayers. He gives me promptings to serve, to love, to stay put when necessary. When prompted, I listen. There was no discomfort in moving forward with our plans.
Friday morning, 5:45 am, Cameron drove the van into town and I drove the limo. I stopped at the gas station and filled up. I looked up at my oil change reminder card, and although I don't remember the exact date or numbers I remember knowing that traveling nearly 600 miles wouldn't be an issue. We got to J's parking lot and immediately kids began jumping in the limo. They didn't care that there was an option to go in other cars, they wanted to take the limo. I couldn't blame them! We have taken it on many youth activities and it is a fun way to travel! We emptied the kids back out of the car and had a travel prayer. In the prayer it was asked that we would have a spiritual experience and recognize the spirit of the Lord in our field trip that day. A simple prayer and exactly what we needed! In my head I said "and travel safe" and I thought about saying it out loud but opted not too, I wasn't the one called on to say the prayer. We loaded up and headed out. 
One the way there Meg and I talked about Hamilton, work, museum, BnB, hotel, church, family, spiritual things, it was a great visit with my closest cousin. Even though we live just 5 minutes apart in this small town, we don't get to see each other as often as we would like. We do try to get together each week for Sunday dinner and then she stays and visits with me late into the evening. I love my talks with Meg!
Our first stop was Carthage Jail in Carthage, Illinois. We arrived just after 9:30 and at this time of year it doesn't open until 10am. Fortunately there were missionaries on site already and they allowed us inside early. We all ran in for a potty break! Not long after everyone had finished their business they gave us a room to meet in, where Sister Shurtleff had us open our day. She gave an uplifting spiritual message, we sang a hymn and she bore a heart felt testimony of our first prophet in these latter days, Joseph Smith. The missionaries serving at Carthage then spoke to us, showed us a beautiful film and proceeded to take us on a tour of Carthage Jail. 
I have been to Carthage twice before. Once with my family and another with the Utah Valley Children's Choir. Both times were in the early 90's, but it hadn't changed. The spirit there was just the same. The realities of what happened there were just as real. As the story was retold of that terrible day, I thought about how God knew what would happen that day. He could have stopped it. He could've turned the mobs away. He could've made the door stay strong and the bullets not penetrate. He could've allowed the shots to ring out but no one get hurt. That wasn't the case for the men at Carthage. They were to die that day. The Church of Jesus Christ was to lose their prophet. They were to learn from the Lord thru that experience. It doesn't make it any easier, but it does allow us to turn to our Savior for comfort, guidance, peace and joy.
We toured the jail and unfortunately had another touring group right behind us. I would've loved to have lingered a little longer in that beautiful place. We did have time to snap a picture though! Outside we came to the well, the statue of Hyrum and Joseph and again I stopped to reflect. These were men who were willing to die for their beliefs. Am I? These are men who gave all for their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Will I? What a beautiful experience on sacred ground, we were blessed to have gone there on this field trip.
The kids were aching for a soda (it was 11 am, teenagers). We made a quick stop at a Caseys for them to grab all the junk their hands could hold. They did a good job in the 5 minutes we gave them and we were back in the car headed to Nauvoo. The drive from Carthage to Nauvoo is beautiful with most of it on along the river. The water was lovely, we noticed a lot of trees that had floated along the river and ended up on the banks and shorelines. We saw boats and geese and other birds. As the road curved along I watched birds over head above the trees. Even in it's later winter dreary brown state, it was beautiful...I can't wait to come back when this is all green! Only about 30 minutes apart we turned off the main road into the city of Nauvoo, Illinois.
And just like that the feelings and spirit of Nauvoo were back in my heart. The magnificent temple rising above me, wasn't here last time I visited, and made the spirit much more tangible. We drove down the streets until we arrived at the Visitors Center. Inside we began perusing and settled in at the map of the old city. The narrator told us about the old town and the map lit up as he explained the lay of the land. Just then the wagon master came inside and told us he was headed out and had room if we wanted to ride along. Of course! We clamored for a spot on the large wagon with benches 4 or so deep. Other tourists were along for the ride with us. We all bundled up in the quilts provided. It was going to be 40* for a high, but it hadn't gotten that warm yet. Slowly we were pulled along the narrow roadways and told stories of saints from their journals. How grateful I am for journal keepers!

We returned to the visitors center then jumped back into the cars and to the home of Sarah Granger Kimball. Her home is significant in church history. It was there that the thoughts of the Relief Society first came to be. Now, the Relief Society is one of the largest organization of women in the world, with over 6 million members! After a brief tour of her home and an explanation of what took place there we ate lunch and divided into 2 groups to visit the other places we desired in Nauvoo, to meet back together later in the afternoon.

Our group first visited the home of Heber C. Kimball. His home is quite large in comparison to some in Nauvoo. It had 2 staircases, extra bedrooms, as well as a parlor and sitting room. It is a beautiful home and no doubt was a place of great love and gathering for church members. Heber C. Kimball's family line is rich in church history and it was wonderful to hear stories of how his descendants assisted in bringing Nauvoo back into the limelight and allowing it to be the tourist destination it is today. A lot of cooperation, prayer and hard work played a role in making Nauvoo what it is today. I am so grateful for those that used ingenuity and followed the spirit so that we can learn our history in a "being there" experience.
We left his home to the home of Eliza R. Snow. This was one of my favorite stops for a few reasons. First, this is the home of the mother of the prophet! She was a stalwart and valiant woman. She knew her son was called of God. She stood firm in the faith even after losing many of her children thru sickness and some of them thru murder! She trusted the Lord. She praised Him! She is a woman I would love to emulate. Second, I loved this stop because the kids were included in a bigger way than in some of the other stops. Charlie and Rosamund "acted out" a little sketch, quick, of a conversation in Eliza's life. This made it more real for me! Lastly, the sister missionaries that were in her home and I struck up a small conversation about where they were from. When I told them I was originally from Spanish Fork, Utah one of them asked if I knew the Fausett family. "Yes!" She asked again, almost sure I would back out this time "Londo and Tammy?" "Yes! They were in my ward growing up AND their daughter Breanna is a dear friend of mine!" She explained that Breanna's little sister was her daughter in law. What a tender mercy for both of us. I love when the Lord allows us to make connections with the people we meet. We shared a few "where they are now" stories. It reminded me of home and family and friends. What a blessing!
All day long Kyle had been begging to get a Root beer. We told him at least a dozen times that we would do it later in the day. Well this is where I gave in and we headed to the general store to buy it. He was so excited and I was excited to stop hearing about it! Haha! Everyone went inside for a few moments and Meg and I took the opportunity to find pioneer bonnets that would work well for our upcoming trek this summer, officially called "Remember the Way to Zion". I bought mine along with 4 rock candy suckers. Jackson has been asking for about a month to make them and although I knew it wouldn't get me out of it, at least it would tide him over for a little longer! Meg purchased her bonnet, a Nauvoo Temple Christmas ornament and a few other items. And Kyle drank his rootbeer!
Now it was time to meet with the rest of the group at the Trail of Hope. I had been looking forward to this ALL DAY! Just a few years ago Ryan and the boys, along with Rod and Jo, had the privledge of going to Nauvoo and walking the trail. Unfortunately that time I had to stay home. They came back telling me amazing stories of their experience. One that hit home and I couldn't wait to find was the plaque of Sarah Leavitt. Sarah is one of our ancestors on Ryan's side of the family. How awesome! The entire trail was spiritually sweet for me. Looking up at the temple each time after reading a plaque and getting further and further away. I cannot imagine what they would've been feeling and experiencing. When I got to Sarah's the tears came. She left everything she had known. What was next? Would they really find peace without hatred? How much more would they endure? How incredible these early Saints were to stay close to the Lord and carry on!

At the end of the trail I grabbed a picture of Jackson at the Mighty Mississippi!! This was his first visit to this incredible river and I couldn't pass up the moment!

We went back to the visitors center to change into our clothing for the temple. I had originally planned to stay back with Jackson while the rest of the group went inside to do ordinances. But at this point there were a few exhausted, not feeling well kids, and Meg was having back pain and chose to sit this one out. Hooray, I brought my recommend and gladly went into the temple with my oldest 3 and the rest of the group. I love to be in the house of the Lord. We had worked together as a family to gather and bring with us family names, including some of my own great great grandparents! It was amazing!! The spirit was awesome and I felt especially tender with 3 of the names. I knew that this was a good day for them and me!
We came out of the temple to find bald eagles and hawks (over 20 of them) circling around the city of Nauvoo and even perched at the temple! I absolutely love birds. Any birds. Birds of prey, however, are my favorite! I watched and watched. I shouted and pointed. The teenagers just grunted and I kept watching!
Jackson and Meg had done some more shopping while we were in the temple and he convinced her to buy him a coon skin hat. It was been about 3 years that he has been asking me for one. He lucked out, Meg spoils him!! He was so proud to show it to me and even prouder to wear it!
After everyone had changed back into our street clothes we hit the road to Keokuk to grab a quick bite for dinner before heading home. How was it time to go already? I needed another few days in Nauvoo. I will head back there soon, I can promise you that!

We stopped at Wendy's for dinner. While we were in line Jackson was playing with the tail on his hat a pulled off about a 2 " section from the end. His eyes got huge and he looked at me. I said "we can sew it back on when we get home. I know how. Just put it in your pocket." After a lengthy ordering process and a little confusion in getting all our food we had another travel prayer and we were headed back home. Brother Shurtleff had asked while we were there if I needed gas. I told him yes I would and that we could grab it where ever  convenient along the way.
We got back on the road and I had fuel for about 80 miles or so. As we passed each gas station I thought "should we stop?" and then I would keep going. We passed 4 or 5 and I figured it was okay and I would find one along the way. We got to visiting and enjoying the drive when I saw a gas station on the upcoming exit. I looked up and saw that I had 26 miles til I needed gas- a little too close for comfort- I told Meg to call ahead to the other car and let them know I am stopping and I took the exit. Unfortunately it wasn't enough time for them to take the exit too, however, I didn't know when the next place to stop for gas would be.
I began to decelerate and coast along the off ramp. I realized I would need a little more umph to get to the top of the ramp and pushed on the gas pedal. Normally, you wouldn't think anything of it, but I remember distinctly each of these steps now. I pressed on the pedal and it made a airy rhythmic popping sound. "What is that?" Meg and I both said. Was I really running out of gas even though it says 26? Weird. We laughed and Meg commented "at least we have a bunch of teenagers to push us!". We popped all the way into the gas station and I pulled up to the pump, "we made it!". I got out to pump the gas and realized I need to pull forward another few feet for the hose to reach. I wondered if I even had enough gas to start it. A little embarassed I started her up, popping and all all, and pulled forward the few feet and quickly shut it off. The sound was not quiet, everyone at the station heard it. EVERYONE. Then the pump wouldn't accept my card. I tried a few times and then walked into the station to pay the attendant. I had her put $50 on the pump and headed back out to fill her up. I filled the car. In the meantime we popped the hood. I had Brandon, Cole, Jared and Kyle all up inside it trying to figure out what that sound could be? After she was full, we started it back up and still the sound.
 We turned it off, checked all the fluids. Fine. I called a few mechanics and one of my super smart, do it all, fix it all brothers and they gave me a few ideas. We sent Marco Polo videos back n forth. I texted pictures to few of them. They said it could be the Spark plugs? That it would be okay to drive home with one out we just wouldn't have as much power and would have to go slower. We checked them. Nope, not that. A gentleman came up and offered to look at it. While he was looking, I was on the phone with Justin, Meg was on google. He found a hose that was disconnected from the vacuum system. He said it would help the carburetor. It was one of the hoses we had been looking at before but didn't know where it was supposed to go. He plugged it in the spot and just then Meg said online it says it could be the vacuum. Justin was glad that there was someone there to help us. The other mechanic I called said that could be the sound. The gentleman explained that it may make the sound for a few miles but that it would regulate after a little bit. We closed the hood. During all of the this, Cameron called me twice from Shurtleff's car "Mom is everything okay? Do we need to come back?" I told him that they guy said we would be fine and we were headed out. It took us probably another 10 minutes after that before we left the gas station. I didn't even realize they were getting further and further ahead of us. Before we left I turned to the kids in the back and said "They said that it might sound obnoxious and drive us crazy but that we should be just fine to continue. We will go ahead and stop again if we need, but we are going to head home." Then I said "Who wants to say prayer?" Before anyone said anything I quipped "it needs to be someone with a lot of faith!" Cole offered a nice travel prayer and asked that we would make it home safe. We started her up and popped all the way out of the station in Taylor. It was dark now, and I turned my headlights on. I figured we were at the gas station about 30-40 minutes.
Slowly I approached highway 61 headed west. We got on the freeway and got to about 50 miles an hour. The popping sound was a fast rhythmic now. It got faster with speed. Originally, when we first pulled into the station the sound happened only when I depressed the gas pedal. Now it was happening even when I was coasting on a hill. I decided to call Ryan and explain what was happening (to the best of my knowledge) and Meg called Shurtleffs to give an update. We were going to have to take it slow. We hadn't gotten very far down the road when I told Ryan. "I am smelling a lot of fuel. I didn't smell that at the gas station." I looked up at the miles til empty and explained that it was accurate according to how far I had gone and wasn't registering losing fuel but the smell was getting stronger. I took my foot off the gas to slow down. We were on a slight hill and I could coast a little and then pull over. Just then it got really bright outside. I said "we are on fire. we are on fire." Ryan was still on the phone with me. Shurtleffs were still on the phone with Meg.
I pulled the car to the side telling the kids to get out as soon as we stopped. I put the car in park and yanked off my seat belt. I opened the door and ran to the back. The kids were hitting the window and yelling "let us out". The child lock! I ran to the door on the driver side and pulled, nothing. The automatic doors didn't unlock. As I rounded the back of the car Meg was yelling "Koty, they can't get out!" I ran to the passenger side on the back and pulled just as the kids opened the door and came tumbling out.  All nine of them at once it seemed! Although Charlie had thought he pulled up on the lock, it wasn't hard enough and he was pulling the handle over and over to no avail. When Rosamund got to the door she yanked hard, it opened. Brandon and I walked up next the side of the car and bent down. The fire was coming from directly under the driver and passenger front seats. It was already a good size flame. Meg and I had to jump over flame to get out. Meg shouted for the kids to run and get as far away as possible. They began running away from the car and I kept asking if we had anyone. My husband firmly said to me "Call 911" This was the first time I realized I was still on the phone with him. The flames were growing quickly. I yelled to Meg again "do we have everyone?" "yes!" "COUNT!!" She said they were all there. "I yelled ARE YOU SURE!? Count again!"
"911 what is the address of your emergency?" I told her where I thought I was and what was happening. She said they were tracking my cell phone and were on their way. I stayed on the phone with her until I could see flashing lights. She told me they were receiving multiple calls for the same thing. Many things transpired while we were on the phone together. I will tell you from here on out all the details at the accident are mixed together. I am not sure what order they happened in. I will just tell you what I remember happening. It was all so fast and a lot to take in.
A truck pulling a trailer and a tractor trailer pulled off to the side  on the opposite side of the highway. The two men both jumped out of their vehicles with fire extinguishers and began spraying the flames. They got a little headway and then jumped in the car and started throwing out our belongings. I yelled at them not to worry about our things. Get out of the car and stay safe.
We were all worried that it would blow up.  The 911 operator asked me to get everyone at least 100 feet from the vehicle. I kept counting kids. They were far enough away. I was half way between them and the car and I kept yelling at those guys. They asked if they could break out the back window? "If you need too, yes! Do whatever you have to do, but please be safe" They grabbed a few more items then a small explosion came from the car. They backed off. By now the flames were 15 feet high. This was way beyond their fire extinguishers.
The officers began arriving and ordered everyone away from the blaze. They stopped traffic and we waited for the fire department. Everything is a blur from them asking me questions, to me trying to comfort my kids only to be pulled away by another officer for questions. They needed their mommy but the officers needed me too. It was cold. The kids were shivering. I was shaking from shock and cold. I was asked where we wanted to go. I told them to take us to the closest hotel and I would get a room. We would wait there for ward members to come get us.
Fire department arrives and begins spraying the car. They break out the windows to get the interior as well. I look at the truck and realize it is the Palmyra Fire Department. I think this a little uncanny to have a name from church history on the side of this truck. Wrong state, but same name.
I climb inside the car with a state trooper to run my license and initial information as the driver. Both my proof of insurance and license are in the vehicle. I call Ryan and ask him to send me any information he has for insurance. The officer runs my name and birthdate. I am glad at this point that I am not one who goes around breaking the law. No record. The backseat of the car would be a lot different had I had issues in the past.
At some point I Marco Polo'd Justin again saying that we were up in flames. It was knee jerk reaction. He was the last person beside Ryan I had talked with. He could pray for us.

I recounted what happened with multiple officers and agencies as well as the captain of the fire department. Sitting in his car he asks me "What is your company?" I begin telling him that I own a B&B when I realize he thinks I own a limo service. "No, this is my personal driver. My family car" He scoffs and says "a stretch limo is your family vehicle" I have had this reaction before, many times. I laughed a little and say "Yes". An officer was dispatched to begin transporting us to the hotel. They ask me where I want the car towed to? Where even am I? They mention a few companies, one they say is out of Hannibal. I recognize that city and tell them to take it there. I am asked to gather names, birthdates and addresses for each of the occupants. I take the officers notebook and begin shakily writing. I am trying to stay calm but my nerves are spent.

Justin text back that when he had hung up with me, before we continued on the road again, "I said a quick prayer that you would make it home safe. I guess God answered the prayer the way he saw fit. Hopefully this turns into a tender mercy. I love you and I am glad you were protected."

I keep drifting between the kids and Meg and the car and officers. My kids are clearly shaken and I know they need me. I felt awful that I kept being pulled from them, especially Jackson. This is such a traumatic event for the little guy.
Meg tells me the bishop found a family that are members of our church and live in Palmyra. We can go to their home to wait for rides. How wonderful! (more on that later) The officer confirms with me that we are going to a home instead of a hotel and the first group of kids leave with Meg.
The next car of kids leave.
I am left with Kyle and Blake. The fire is out now, and it sitting on the side of the road smoking. We walked around it and took a few pictures. At this point my feet are so cold. They are wet and feel like solid chunks of ice. They feel heavy. At some point I was given Cameron's leather jacket to wear. It had been in the limo and Rosamund grabbed it on her way out. I am glad for it. I was a shivering, shaking, cold lady!
I am sure there are a thousand more details in between all of this. They are mush in my head.
The last trip with the transport officer is ready to head out. I give the final information needed to the fire department and officers. They give me their cards. The tow truck pulls up just before we pull away.
Driving to the members home I have a million and one thoughts going. The officer asks me "how do you know these people?" "We don't" I replied. "They belong to our church too, but we have never met them". "That is a pretty amazing church" he says. "Yeah, it is." I smiled.
When we pull up to the house Brother Shurtleff and Cameron are waiting on the porch. Cameron grabs me and pulls me in tight. It felt so good for him to hold me. We were all safe. He whispers in my ear that he has something to say so we wants everyone to get together. I told him I wasn't ready. He proceeded anyway.
We all gathered in the living room of this home. I didn't even look around, just gathered in with the rest. I stood in the back and decided to video tape what he had to say. I am glad that I did. He bore a powerful testimony for the need for great trials. These trials are necessary for us to become stronger, for us to rely on the Lord and to realize His love for us. He bore testimony that our lives were just preserved for a reason. That we needed to step it up. The Lord needed us to help gather Israel and that we needed to be all in. It was powerful! I cried.
We all knelt in prayer, Brother Shurtleff offered gratitude to God for our safety and protection. Then, Brother and Sister Shurtleff loaded a few children into their car to head for home. Meg and I would stay with the rest until all the rides had arrived.
Before I had gotten to the house, the kids had been sharing their stories, feelings and testimonies. How neat are these kids. They all recognized the miracle that had just taken place and they were discussing it one with another. All with gratitude. They had turned on a light hearted movie, Bed Time Stories, to help them just breathe. Meg and I were talking about the items we had just purchased in Nauvoo and how they were all gone. The fudge, old time candies, temple ornament, our bonnets, etc. Jackson said "mom, my hat is still in the limo." "Buddy I am so sorry!" Then he pulled something out of his pocket and announced "but I still have this..." It was the small part of the tail he pulled off in Wendy's!! Haha! We are never throwing out that little raccoon puff ball!
Being in the Voekel's house was so incredibly comfortable. I soon found out they were out of town and we were in their house by ourselves. Although we would've loved to have met them, an empty house was exactly what we needed to just relax without the discomforts or pressures of being hosted. God is in the details!
After a little time had passed Josiah Aitchison arrived to take home the first group of kids. His two kids of course, were happy to see their dad. He took Jared home too. They hadn't been gone too long when Bishop Jeff Durfee and 2nd counselor in the bishopric John Dawson arrived for the rest of us. We all took a quick potty break and then locked up the house and loaded into the cars for home. My boys and I rode with Brother Dawson and Meg and Rosamund rode with bishop (her dad).
It was a long quiet ride home. Brother Dawson was wise enough to have calming quiet music playing and we visited all the way. We talked little of the accident, although a few times we did discuss it. We had great conversations although now I don't remember any of them. It was just talking to keep my mind busy. I convinced the younger boys to fall asleep and before too long they were out. Cameron followed right behind them and Brandon only nodded off for about 20 minutes of the just over 2 hour drive.
When we got home it was just after 2. We woke everyone and headed inside. Once in the house Charlie was visibly emotional. He laid in our bed and cried. He was thinking that when he got home his dad would be back from his business trip. Ryan often flies in late Friday nights (gets home around 1) but this week his flight was Saturday afternoon. Jackson too was crying for daddy. We had family prayer and I hugged Cameron good night and he went right to bed. Brandon came for his hug and just kept holding me. I held him just as tight. I then whispered "You don't always have to be strong". He broke. Sobbing with the gasps for air in between. It was the cry that he needed. We stood there for quite a while until he was good. He was still crying in bed, very healing. I crawled into bed with the two younger boys, one on either side of me. We all snuggled tight and cried. I couldn't sleep, but to be cuddling with them was perfect.
I woke up after just 2 hours. I was spent. Exhausted and emotional. Tears streamed down my face uncontrollably. I sent texts to all the families involved to check on the kids and see how they were doing. And to Meg. Everyone was fine. All the kids were talking about the accident and their parents were kind and thanked me for watching over them. The Tillitson boys had scheduled weeks before to come over to hang out and I told them to still come. That we could use some normal. The boys did great with their friends and I curled up and continued to cry. The tears flowed all day Saturday. They really didn't stop. It felt like acid on parts of my face. The tears were burning, but they didn't stop. Anytime I was asked "How are you?" I would answer "Not okay, but I will be". The shock was so severe. I wasn't angry, or sad. I couldn't even tell you how I was feeling. I just knew that I wasn't okay but that I would be at some point. Ryan came home and I threw my arms around him and cried. I answered the phone that morning for my mom, momma Jo (Ryan's mom), Bishop Durfee and one other call from a gal in the ward who offered to bring us dinner, "Yes, thank you." That was all that I could handle. I did return texts but I didn't want to talk to anyone. The tears continued. I sat in the hot tub for a little bit and then showered and went to bed early, about 9.
I had a tough time sleeping, but kept trying. When I woke up Sunday morning I knew there were 2 things that I had to do. Ryan and I left the house about 6 for the church. This is normal on Sunday mornings. I go with him, he has bishopric at 6:30 and I get ready in the bathroom and then join in Ward Council at 7:30. The boys meet us at 8:30 with the second car. This morning I cried all the way to the church. Once the bishopric was all assembled I asked for a blessing. Bishop annointed and Ryan offered the blessing. It was beautiful. Instead of getting ready, I sat alone in a classroom and wrote letters of apology to each of the kids and families from the fire. Although I knew I wasn't responsible for what happened, I did feel a great sense of responsibility for the safety of those children. I needed to say "I am sorry" so that I could heal. So I didn't have to carry the burden anymore. I would hand them out and then give it all to Christ. I couldn't do it anymore.
I had previously been assigned to do Doctrinal Foundation for Ward council. I bore my testimony of miracles. We had a great discussion and the spirit was strong. Ward council was nice; a really great meeting.
When I walked into the chapel I saw Jackson sitting on a bench. Behind him was a family I hadn't ever seen, but I knew who they were. I walked up to them and shook their hands, thanked them for their willingness to share their home with us and handed them a Thank you note. The story behind the Voekel's home being available for us is just as miraculous as the rest of the story. You see, their daughter is serving a mission in California. Sister Alex Durfee from our ward (bishop's daughter and former employee to me) just returned from the same mission at the end of February. They were companions for one transfer. Sister Voekel (missionary) called her parents and told them that Alex was having her homecoming talk and wanted them to attend, she loved Alex so much. The Voekel family called Durfee family on Wednesday night, just 48 hours before the fire. Upon hearing the bishop say that we were headed to a hotel in Palmyra Missouri to wait for a ride, Sister Durfee exclaimed "The Voekel's are from there. They can help!" In just a few minutes time they were contacted and they said that although they were out of town, they left a key for their neighbor to care for the chameleon, we could let ourselves in. I was so grateful to meet them and thank them in person!
I found each of the families and quietly handed them my envelope and then took my seat in the chapel.
Sacrament meeting started and I stared straight ahead. I couldn't sing the hymns, my heart was so heavy. We sang the sacrament hymn and my heart grew bigger and bigger. I partook of the sacrament and an incredible peace swept thru me. It is not anything I have EVER experienced before. The talks were wonderful. Before Alex spoke she sang the musical number "How Firm a Foundation". She has a folky voice and this version was perfect for her voice. Some words spoken, but all so beautiful and ALL the verses! Verse 5 made me giggle, catch my breath, cry and smile. It says "
When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie
My grace all sufficient shall be thy supply
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine
Then she gave an absolutely beautiful talk filled with testimony and truth! I left the meeting with a giant smile and a healed heart! I hadn't realized how much I was hurting and how much I was traumatized until I felt whole again. 

Monday morning we packed everyone into the mini van and headed to Hannibal to see the damage and maybe we could salvage a few items. When we pulled into the yard the look on Ryan's face was one of shock and pain and gratitude. "No way!" He exclaimed. You could hear his heart sink. He knew that the fire was intense. He said he had no idea it would look like that.

The car has no hood left. 
The engine is completely burned and destroyed. 
The paint on the front end was all melted off. 

There were several loud explosions the night of the fire. 
In this picture you can see that the tire exploded. (both of the front tires)

Inside the back end, there is a large mirror that runs most of the inside of the limo along the roof line. This picture shows how it all melted and then dried that way. Kind cool looking, actually!

Brandon was cleaning out the front to see if he could find anything left.
The front seat where I was sitting is only a metal frame.
However, my purse that sat behind was mostly unscathed, although not usable.

We did find a few treasures in the car, although most were too smoke damaged to save.
I was really glad to see my Drivers License survived -no hassles at the DMV!
We laughed when we saw the Grey Poupon bottle just charred but the label survived.
And the bottle of foot powder in the center console just as great it had been before.
One of my favorite discoveries was Meg's pioneer bonnet (mine didn't make it) and her Nauvoo Temple ornament.
Although my coat was melted, in the pocket was my temple recommend!
A little wet and smoky but otherwise okay!

Unfortunately we did lose quite a few items including a quilt, a step stool, Jacksons coon skin hat, all the glassware, 2 outfits and 2 pair shoes for me, Cameron's snow clothes, Charlie's church shoes, a BUNCH of library books and DVD's and Books on Tape, most of the souveniers, mine and Meg's purses and wallets (Meg's purse has a giant chunk of plastic melted to it. We think it's the phone).

THIS PICTURE means the world to me! The things that are very most important, MY FAMILY, made it out of this fire SAFE & we all KNOW that our Father loves us!!

Last week we had Fast & Testimony meeting at church. I knew that I needed to bear my testimony. I did. I mentioned how my heart had only pounded this hard one other time, the night I was responsible for many of their children. Our Father is a God of miracles. He preserved our lives. I will continue to serve Him with all my might. I will share my testimony often of how we provided a thousand tiny miracles to protect us that night. I love Him!
Over the last 2 weeks we have been super blessed to reflect and talk about God's hand in our lives. It is crazy to think that it's even real and not just a movie. What a great memory to remind us of all the Lord needs us to continue doing.

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