Horrible Fire Last Night!

lynninnewmexicoJanuary 15, 2014

Last night just before 11PM, our daughter's sorority house caught on fire at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. Thankfully, all 80 girls and their house mom got out safely, although many, including DD, were in nothing but their pajamas. No coats, shoes, no cell phones, purses, car keys, textbooks, etc. DD called us in tears as the girls were huddled across the street watching 5 fire trucks fight the flames that were coming from the attic. The other Greek houses on the long block of sororities and fraternities brought blankets to help keep the girls warm.

With no cell phone with her, she had to borrow someone's to call and let us know. It's awful to be almost 600 miles away from your kid when something bad like this happens!

Her room is on the third floor of the house, but on the opposite side that the fire was on. Still, all her clothes, text books, shoes, purse, cell phone, meds for her ulcer (a huge concern for me ), etc. are up there and no one but the fire dept. is able to go into the building.

This is just Day #3 of the new semester. Classes have started. Homework and papers are due. DD has been emailing me this morning. She and all the girls are so incredibly stressed. Worried that their textbooks, clothes, etc. were ruined in the fire or from the emergency sprinklers in every room. Worried even more so about finding places to live now that the house in uninhabitable . . . and how to pay for everything.

She and some other girls stayed overnight on the floor of someone's apartment in Norman, but have no idea where they all will stay now. She just now emailed me and said that she and her sisters are worried that the sorority's insurance won't pay for them to be housed someplace else.

I don't know what to do. My good friend just called and offered to drive with me there ( 8 1/2 hours) to help DD and her friends move their things . . . but to where??

Please keep these girls in your thoughts and prayers, will you?

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Oh no Lynn! So glad everyone is safe. There has got to be some sort of protocol from the college and hopefully they will have a plan. I would call the college and see what they are doing.

Yes I will keep the girls in my thoughts.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 11:40AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

How awful. You might want to go just to be there and be supportive. I'm sure there will be insurances and others involved once the whole thing gets sorted out. Also, if her side of the building is reasonably sound, they may eventually let them go back in to fetch what they can. Also, she can go to classes and talk to profs and students about sharing books, delaying assignments, etc.

Most important is to be thankful that everyone is fine. Things can be replaced, but people cannot.

I'm reminded of a news story of a few months ago that student housing wasn't available so they housed the students at the local water park including free weekend passes! Sometimes you can fall into manure and come up smelling like a rose!

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 11:46AM
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How worrying and stressful for everyone involved! I will definitely keep you in my T's and P's. Please keep us up-to-date on the situation.

This post was edited by Fun2BHere on Wed, Jan 15, 14 at 11:52

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 11:51AM
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Thank you for your thoughts, prayers and ideas.
Deedee, I took your advice and just called the university. The wonderful people in the Office of Student Affairs talked with me and reassured me that many people from the President Born down are already making arrangements to get the girls housed, fed, new student IDs, text books, clothes, etc. They then had a doctor with the campus medical clinic call me to arrange getting replacement meds for DD's ulcer.
So, that takes care of some of the immediate problems . . . for today, at least. Hopefully they can get the girls some clothes, as many have nothing but the pajamas they were in last night when the fire broke out and it's cold there today, per the doc I just talked with.

I still feel incredibly stressed out and worried and keep breaking down in tears this morning. I feel so darn helpless here. Today is our 31st wedding anniversary. DH just called and suggested it might be a waste to go out to dinner as we'd planned. I think we'll put off celebrating until things are settled more. I sure don't feel like it today!

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 12:21PM
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So glad you called the college. I was stressing for you! I'll bet once you talk to your dd a bit more, you can start to feel less upset.

Keep us updated!

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 12:28PM
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What a horrible situation, Lynn! When it comes to a DD, we seem to worry more than usual. If it were me, I would make the drive to reassure *myself* as well as DD, that everything is going to be alright. I know it's your anniversary, but maybe you and DH can drive there for the weekend. Only you know your DD's stress level, and how she's coping with the situation. One of my DD's would be a basket case, the other two would be fine. Use your Motherly instincts. ;)

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 12:40PM
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Sorry to hear this but what an opportunity to project and learn strength. The college will certainly fix it and things will work out.

Happy Anniversary. Don't cancel your plans. Your DD is fine. Celebrate!! The rest is just stuff and details. Breathe and trust.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 1:46PM
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First and foremost, she and everyone else is safe, thank goodness. Everything else will get sorted out and pales in comparison.

If you can swing it, I would go and help her through the initial 're-settlement'. At the very least, you can be doing things while she's in class, helping to get the most needed replacements for her immediately so she doesn't have to worry about it after classes when she needs to study. Just the basics of a few changes of clothes, toiletries and some kind of storage so that while she's in transition she can keep things together. It sounds like the school is on top of this and will find housing quickly, but if you're there you may have some say in that or be able to scout things on her behalf if there are choices to be made.

You'll still be married 31 years for a while ;-) so postpone the celebration and be the mama bear (my hunch is that's where your heart is right now).

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 1:50PM
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OMG Lynn, I'd be bawling. Your heart must be stretched to the limit with anxiety. Just thinking of "what could have happened" would do me in and I'm sure you're trapped in that thought. Fire is just something you never dream will happen and it's your baby so you have every reason to stress. Your daughter has been traumatized and it's going to affect all of you. Hopefully today will bring better news. Keep the faith, I'm praying for all of you.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 1:52PM
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RNmomof2 zone 5

OMG!! I heard about this on another site and never expected to "know" someone in this house.

I can only imagine how you feel and like others have said, perhaps a quick visit would do much to soothe both of your nerves. While it is great that the University is stepping up, they don't replace a visit from Mom.

Just keep things in perspective, as trite as it seems, only "things" have been lost. Thankfully no one was injured.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 1:55PM
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My thoughts are with you too Lynn. Thank goodness everyone is OK.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 2:13PM
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Oh Lynn...the same thing happened to my DD At Ohio State in 2007. It was 8 girls living in a clap-trap house just off campus. The Red Cross were there in a flash to help out and the housing office immediately put them up in graduate dorms for a week so that might be an option for some of the girls. Can't say enough good things about OSU!

I gave my DD a little what- for when we went to help her move into the house 2 months prior to the fire. It was filthy, smelled and just gross but they took it because it was the only house with 8 bedrooms...and kids don't see what we see! She and another girl were the only ones home when the fire broke out in the attic in the afternoon. I think they determined it was rats chewing on wiring that caused it...ugh!! Fortunately, my daughters room was on the second floor at the other end so she didn't have any fire damage. If it had happened at night the girl living in the attic might have died.

The realty company offered nothing and did nothing for the girls and were very smug and cavalier when we talked to them. They did as few repairs as possible and rented it again.

Fortunately, the housing office contacted a family that was buying and fixing houses to rent to students. They moved out of their own house they were living in while fixing it up so the girls could move in and even immediately put up walls to create more bedrooms. Talk about Midwestern hospitality!

The girls ended up suing the sleazy realty company, using law students from the university law school. They didn't get much, but it was something.

We went out there for the weekend (400 miles away) more for moral support than anything else...she was glad to see us!

It was hard to see DD go through this, but she put it behind her in short order once she was settled in the new place. Your daughter will too....keep us posted.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 2:19PM
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Thinking of you Lynn! This is so stressful! Do they know how the fire started?

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 2:29PM
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Thank you all. I'm receiving email messages now from the sorority keeping us parents updated. The university gave the girls vouchers to eat for free on campus. One shop in town gave them each a $50 gift card to buy some clothes. How thoughtful is that . . . there were 80 girls living in the house?! Their national sorority gave them vouchers to buy a few clothes, as well. DD emailed me a couple of minutes ago to tell me they'd just returned from buying some undies, warm socks and 2 warm, much needed shirts. She also said that the university and sorority have arranged to move them to a very nice hotel for the time being, although probably not until tomorrow night.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 3:11PM
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Lynn, I saw that on the news this morning and thought how lucky the girls were. Wow.

The university will definitely take care of them and I'm assuming her semester of rent is paid in full, so I'm hopeful their insurance will reimburse the girls.

That's so sad. The kids become very attached to their houses.

BTW, it's "Boren," not "Born." lol

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 3:13PM
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I'm so glad everyone is safe and that the girls will be taken care of by the school. Everyone will rally around them. But those late night calls from the kids are heart-in-your-throat scary. I had one a few years ago.

Bright side - A couple of years from now it will make for a great story for both you and your daughter. In the meantime, if you can, go and see her - I suspect you probably both need a hug from each other.

What's the saying - An 8 1/2 hour drive for a 60 second hug - priceless.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 3:31PM
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Angels on their shoulders.

I am so sorry you are going through this. So stressful for a mother. It may be harder on you than her.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 3:43PM
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Ooops, thanks for that one, Oakley. I thought that spelling looked a bit odd! I've just talked with the folks at the NCED hotel and they're offering to put any of the girls or their parents (driving in to help) up tonight for a very discounted rate. Oklahomans are so darn nice!

And, yes, the girls do get very attached to their sorority houses/homes. There was a very poignant photo of the fire that I saw on one of the news feeds today. Taken last night, the double front doors thrown wide open, lights in the foyer spotlighting a large, beautiful bouquet of flowers on the table right inside the front doors . . . with huge flames shooting out the roof. The girls are devastated. So am I.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 3:48PM
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Lynn, just read through this thread. All I can say is that I am sorry this happened. So glad no one was hurt.

Your daughter will be fine. Her friendships with her 'sisters' stronger.


    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 4:50PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

I'm reminded about a story at work...I chaired the safety committee...and one other committee member said, based on what he learned, he looked over his DDs college housing and found several violations. He asked to the landlord about it and they fixed it right away.

This post was edited by AnnieDeighnaugh on Thu, Jan 16, 14 at 8:44

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 5:29PM
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I saw the same flowers! It was the lead story at 4pm, on KFOR. I bet they'll upload it to kfor.com pretty soon. Plus I'm sure the other stations will carry it. KOCO and KWTV.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 5:43PM
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How absolutely awful. I am so glad to hear she and her sisters are all okay. As others have said, stuff is just stuff. However, you do need some stuff, such as clothes!

I have to admit that I would be racing to her side to be there and make sure she was safely settled elsewhere and has what she needs. Although, you may just be in the way and it will be a good way for her to practice her self-sufficiency.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 6:05PM
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Lynn -
Professors will be understanding. This is way beyond "the dog ate my homework".

If, as the news reports indicated, the fire was contained quickly, they might be lucky enough to have nothing but smoke smell to cope with, but that's manageable.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 6:19PM
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Thank you. Emily just called again to tell us the fire marshal walked her and her friend whose room is across the hall from Emily's up to their rooms to get a few things. Her friend's ceiling has collapsed in one corner, but Emily's was ok, just a lot of water from the sprinkler system. She was able to get her textbooks, some more clothes, shoes, a coat, toiletries, etc.
The latest email to parents informed us that the house will be uninhabitable the rest of this semester, which just started on Monday. The university will help them all find housing elsewhere. There is a meeting for all the girls and any parents in the area this evening to give them more info.

I was ready to drive there, but she told me to hold off. There is nothing I can do at the moment and she said they need to stay together to keep each other strong. Good for them. It's been an emotional rollercoaster all day today. One call my daughter sounds very fragile, very tired and weepy. The next call she sounds strong and determined again. They're staying at a local hotel tonight so that they can take showers and sleep in warm beds.

Thank you all for your concern, ideas, stories for me and for positive thoughts and prayers for all the girls. They need a lot of them at the moment.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2014 at 6:39PM
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what an ordeal, I'm glad they are well taken care of though. Good luck to all of you.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 7:21AM
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Glad to hear everyone is ok. Yes, the dean of students will contact the girls' professors to ask them to give them flexibility on assignments.

We had an emergency at a sorority house last fall and everyone worked together to help the students.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 7:49AM
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Lynne, what a nightmare! I am so glad everyone got out safely. I hope the girls don't lose too much ground and can get right back to their work without too much trouble.

Beth P.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 8:43AM
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SO glad everyone is okay. An excellent reminder to tell my girls for the thousandth time to turn off their hair straighteners before they leave their room. Straighteners are so hot and they scare me to death because they are often left unattended.

Just last year a friend had her house burn to the ground in the morning after everyone left for work and school. She never revealed the cause of the fire but I suspect it was some kind of hair tool or iron mishap.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 9:02AM
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A quick update. The OU and Norman community came together last night at the meeting. The girls were told that the university would be moving them into their choice of a furnished dorm room on campus or into furnished 4-bedroom campus apartments. I believe most chose the apartments. Emily and three of her friends will be moved into theirs tomorrow or Saturday. This morning they were allowed to salvage what they could out of their rooms at the house. Many rooms on the other side from hers were almost total losses. Emily's was in much better shape, and she got pretty much everything out and into her car. Being a large SUV, it will hold everything until she can get it cleaned and into her apartment.

While these apartments come furnished with beds, desks, chairs, sofa, etc., the beds are full-size and therefore they all need to buy new sheets, etc. for them. They have no pots, pans, flatware, dish towels, glasses, dishes, etc., but I imagine we parents can provide those. I'm waiting now for her to look at the apartments and let me know what else might be needed, such as lamps, microwave, etc.

Although the girls friends are there and helping them, I'm still feeling like the worst mom in the world for not being there with her . I'm seriously considering driving the 600 miles there tomorrow morning. DH can't go. He has no partner in his practice now and lots of sick patients, as this is cold and flu season and there are a lot of nasty bugs going around here, including Influenza.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 3:23PM
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Lynn, I'm so sorry for the worry and what happened to your daughter and especially for those that have total losses, but so glad that nothing but things were harmed.

I can only imagine how hard it must be to be so far away, but it sounds like your daughter has good help and is able to handle things on her own. Even though it sucks it probably won't be the only time in her life she'll have to deal with something hard such as this so it is good they at least have the help of the University and the community. I know it would be very hard on me not going, but I would also need to consider that my child is going to grow up and that you won't always be able to be there in person when something happens. I guess what I'm saying it seems like there is good support and that this might be a good learning experience to show that she was able to handle it on her own too. I know we want to protect our "babies" from all bad things, but in some cases we also need to let them figure things out on their own and grow from it.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 4:20PM
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Sounds like she is doing fine on her own. You are far from the worst mother in the world! Thank goodness today's technology keeps us constantly in touch (hope she got her phone out!) and you can give her lots of good advice from a distance. How lucky for her that most of her possessions were not damaged, just a bit sooty, I imagine. I feel bad for the girls who lost a lot.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 4:22PM
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Thank you both!
Lyfia, your wise advice is exactly what I needed at this moment. Thank you so much! Emily will be twenty in just two months, and she's always been practical and more mature for her age. You're right, she is an adult and although we're very close and get along great, she has many close friends there and she seems to be doing fine without me.

Lyfia also wisely reminded me," it probably won't be the only time in her life she'll have to deal with something hard such as this " and "it seems like there is good support and that this might be a good learning experience to show that she was able to handle it on her own too. I know we want to protect our "babies" from all bad things, but in some cases we also need to let them figure things out on their own and grow from it."

Such good advice and I'm taking it! I've just returned from putting more money in her bank account so that she can buy the necessities she needs. The sorority has assured us that the insurance company will reimburse us for things lost and things they need to buy right away.

Four of Emily's close (platonic) guy friends surprised her and showed up this morning to help her salvage things out of her room and get them packed up in her car. AND . . . great news . . . the girls got a call this afternoon letting them know their new apartment was ready for them and they're already moved into it thanks to these good friends! What a huge relief that is! It warms my heart to see such true friendship in action.

So, I have to thank you all once again for holding me up these past couple of days. Your kind words, advice and support have helped me more than you can imagine!

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 7:04PM
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I am so sorry this happened and you have been so worried. Thankfully no one was injured. To your last post,I love happy endings.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 7:16PM
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Thank God no one lost their life. This is very stressful for the girls, but they all managed to get out and that is what truly matters. My daughter's kindergarten teacher was a student at Seton Hall University (NJ) when there was a deadly dorm fire there several years back. Not only was there loss of life, but some students were burned horribly and spent months in intensive care. Those that survived with permanent disability were changed forever. My daughter's teacher still remembers it vividly as she was in the next building. The horror of classmates not getting out. By no means am I trying to minimize what happened to your daughter, but those girls are so lucky to have escaped with their lives. Everything they lost is replaceable. I wish your daughter and her sorority sisters well in moving forward.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 7:33PM
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I am so thankful no one was injured. I just now saw this.
In times like these, sororities( and fraternities) bond even more to help each other through a crisis. For example some may remember when my DDs sorority sister died of an embolism the weekend before the junior year began. They were devastated by the loss but found strength and solace as a group. They started a memorial scholarship fund 5K race in her honor which continues to this day. They graduated in 2010 and many are still close friends.
You may want to post the sorority name and chapter in case readers are sorority members. A dear Poster here happened to belong to AOPi and expressed a wish to make a donation to the memorial fund. Sorority bonds are sacred.
This is where your daughter leans on her friends but still needs your support and love, but at a distance. Your daughter is strong and will be fine.Sue

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 7:48AM
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Thank you Eandhl, Polly and Sue.

Polly, what a tragic story! Yes, we are all incredibly grateful that all 80 girls and their house mom got out safely. That is, by far, the most important thing.

Sue: there are actually 2 relief funds already started for the girls. One was started by a sorority alum. It's making the rounds over the internet to every house and alumni in the country with great success. The other was started right on OU's campus by a student organization called (I believe) Sooners Helping Sooners. It is also doing very well.

In addition, the other sororities on campus got together and put together relief baskets for each of the 80 girls. Each was filled with new warm socks, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, comb, brush, lotion, lip balm and many other items the girls were very much in need of . They also bought each girl a new pillow and blanket, as most were sleeping on friends couches or floors after the fire.

To say that the girls and we parents are grateful for all this kindness would be a huge understatement!

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 11:03AM
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Found myself (embarrassingly) wipin' a couple tears from my eye here! SO glad things are workin' out for the girls. I know I'D be a mess as the DH here! I'm glad some guy-friends were there too to provide some "muscle" for the moves too!

If you'd like, tell them there's good wishes comin' down from Fargo (land of the ice & snow, lol!)

It seems like "I was just there", because we stayed in Norman/OKC on Thu. Jan. 2 on our way down to Frisco, TX the first week of Jan.!! we drove back North through OKC on Sun. Jan. 5th.

As a funny story you could tell them...I had to wait to get my car washed until we got into OK! The roads were finally dry there!! When we got to the OKC hotel (Country Suites), my car looked like a heavily powdered donut from all the salt-mist on the way down!! Got it washed at a Cenex (?) on Main-St. I believe. They were heavily reconstructing that exit.


    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 1:00PM
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Lynn...am so glad things have worked out and so quickly. What a tremendous outpouring from the other sororities, community, university, etc......sounds like your daughter and all the girls will be OK.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 1:27PM
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Lynn - I'd be a mess if I were your daughter (let alone her mother). Even at my age, I imagine how I'd feel incapable of moving forward if my life were turned upside down like that. She's demonstrating a great ability to cope. You've raised a strong woman! I hope her life gets back to normal quickly and your fears and heartache diminish, too.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 6:32PM
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Elraes Miller

I can understand how tough this must be for you. As a mom I would want to be there in a minute too. Your daughter sounds very capable....but I would still go for a visit after things are settled. I'ts a mom thing to make sure she is in suitable surroundings, safe and sound. And you are the type of mom to do this too. Hope you are doing well under the circumstances.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2014 at 7:11AM
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Lynn, what an awful few days this must have been for all. So thankful no one was injured in the fire and that the girls are getting settled. I know it must have been hard to be 1000 miles away and feeling helpless. Your daughter and her sisters have been through a life-changing situation and handled it with maturity. You should be proud. Maybe you can also 'help' the girls give a pizza party to thank some of their close friends who helped them get settled in their new apartment. Hope you are feeling better now.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2014 at 8:45AM
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Lynn, can you direct me to the donation site for Alumnae? While I receive mail from International HQ, I am not linked with them via email and have not seen any postings on FB.

TIA, Cathi

    Bookmark   January 19, 2014 at 1:29PM
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Faron, I know exactly where that car wash is! That was a long trip and I imagine you were probably a lot more bent on getting home instead of sightseeing in Norman, but did you get to see much of it? The town is so pretty and the university campus is drop-dead gorgeous. I passed along your good wishes and the fact you were right there in Norman to DD and she loved it ! She wasn't there at the time, though, but still home here on Winter Break.
Cathi: I emailed you through GW. Hope you got the link. Thank you for asking.
Outsideplaying: great idea . . . thanks! She'll like that.
Technicolor: Yes, I was thinking the same thing. We did check out the apt complex online and it's a good one, but being on the first floor, does make me worry.

**Funny story: I can tell that I'm subconsciously worrying because last night I dreamed that I was there sharing the apartment with her and 2 of her friends. Our big Doberman lived there with us, along with 2 other dogs . . . and two 9-foot alligators! Apparently they were tame and friendly (towards us), as it was not a big deal to me at all that they were living with us (LOL)! What a very weird dream that one was!

Javachick: yes, DD has always been more mature and very practical. Thank goodness because, as you mentioned, it's paying off now!
Joanie: Yes, it seems to be working out. Now if they can just finish settling themselves in and get some decent sleep and more studying.

BTW, I have to tell you this. Emily's duvet, curtains, sheets, etc. all came from Pottery Barn Teen catalog. I called yesterday to order replacements for the damaged things and the folks there were beyond helpful. They were so kind. Apparently, their call center is just north of Norman in Oklahoma City! The two customer service people I talked with were both impacted by the terrible tornado that pretty much wiped out Moore this past Summer, which is just north of Norman. They went hugely out of their way to help me find replacements and get them sent off to Emily quickly. They should arrive on Wednesday. Again, I am blown away by the kindness we've all experienced this past week.
And here, as well.

This post was edited by lynninnewmexico on Mon, Jan 20, 14 at 17:31

    Bookmark   January 20, 2014 at 3:42PM
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