INSIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS
Struck by Lightning
Upon returning from Texas, a very jet-lagged Carl was struck by lightening after midnight as he prepared to run a bath...
It was after midnight but I wasn’t tired. I had just returned from Texas and was jet lagged so after having unpacked my suitcase and having a bite to eat I decided to run a bath.
I remember thinking that I needn’t have bothered as I could have had a bath in the storm that was raging on outside and reminded me of some of the weather I thought I’d left behind in Texas. Storms have never bothered me - why would they when one if deaf?
While the bath was running I popped downstairs to fetch my laptop and was on my way back from the living room with my laptop in my hand when all of a sudden, a flash and a bang as such that I never had dreamt was possible blasted me right across the room and it was only by pure luck that I was thrown against the couch. While I laid there paralyse with fear the debris that had hit me in the face and rained down petered out.
Everything went pitch black.
The pure force of the blast as well as the sound was hard to believe - I think at the time it didn’t really register and because it had suddenly gone pitch black, I remember thinking, ‘the fuse has blown…’ It never occurred to me at that instant that it’s not possible for a fuse to blow someone across the room like that - at least not in my knowledge.
I was not to find out until a bit later that a bolt of lightning had missed me by inches and left a gaping hole in the concrete floor of my living room.
Eventually after sitting there stunned by it all, I got up slowly as I couldn’t see a thing and as I have no inner balance I struggled to grope my way around. It wasn’t a nice feeling not being able to see or hear a thing.
I smelt smoke and opened the front door to clear the air - I just thought that the smoke was a result of the bang and I still had no indication what had caused it.
It was then that I noticed an eerie glow on the wall at the top of the stairs and at that point the first signs of panic started to hit me. I knew that something was on fire but I had no idea of the size as the bedroom was directly above my head. I ran upstairs - amazing how quickly you recover when panic sets in - and found the spare bedroom ablaze - and especially the bed. Remembering that the bath was running, I dashed across the the bathroom but couldn’t find anything big enough to try and put the fire out so I dashed downstairs to the kitchen and grabbed the bowl from the kitchen sink.
I then proceeded to run back upstairs and try and put the fire out. After about three or four trips to and from from the bathroom I suddenly felt a hand on my arm tugging me and when I turned round it was someone trying to indicate something - obviously being in the dark I had no chance of understanding what was being said. The tugging got more and more frantic and eventually I allowed myself to be led outside but I did not want to leave the building - I wasn’t convinced that I had put the fire out completely and my whole life was inside that building. All my files on the computer. All my school reports. All my diaries and all my possessions. My whole life.
After being led outside I noticed that it was also pitch black and so were all the neighbours’ houses. The lightning had caused a total blackout. There were a few people coming out of their houses by this stage. In the midst of people coming up to me and fussing over me I noticed that everyone was looking back at my house and when I turned around I saw through a near-vertical gap running down the length of the roof that the roof was on fire!
It was then that everything clicked into place. The ‘fuse’ had been a lightning. The urgency to get me out was because they knew there was a fire but I could not see this through the ceiling as the lightning had blown a hole in the far corner.
Up until that moment I don’t think I was taking in the severity of the situation. Seeing the fire from outside suddenly made me realise that by the time the fire brigade got there I could have lost everything and when I tried to return to the house, many arms grabbed me and prevented me from doing so. Despite my pleas and shouts and struggles they would not let me go and bundled me into my next door neighbours’ house which was not connected to mine.
Once in, they placed a ‘guard’ at the door to stop me getting out while they got me a hot drink. I was desperate to get back to the house and grab my most prized possessions - we all know that going back into a house with a fire is a no-no but I guess that in the midst of it all there’s no time to think rationally. I soon realised that all the time I was acting agitated, they would remain on guard.
So, I forced myself to look relaxed and with it, everyone else seemed to relax too.
Suddenly, quick as a flash (pardon the pun) I was out of the door the moment I sense their guard was dropped and succeeded in getting back into the house but I was followed by three or four men and while it was all a blur I remember vaguely getting a little violent when they grabbed me and tried to drag me back out.
In order for the reader to understand why I was like this, it is because I don’t have the greatest of memories and in order to remember things I need to revisit pictures, videos or reports and only then do the memories come back to me. That is why I bought a scanner as soon as they were sold commercially and scanned everything of significant (and not so significant) importance.
I didn’t succeed in grabbing anything before I was dragged out and this time, no-one dropped their guard.
Shortly after that two or three fire engines arrived with a dozen or so firefighters. We all stood outside in the rain watching and willing them to put the fire out before it caused too much damage. Thankfully they did a great job and soon the fire was out. The firefighters remained on scene for the next hour and a half just to be sure it did not re-ignite.
An ambulance arrived and although I tried to refuse treatment I was eventually persuaded to be treated as they explained that I had inhaled a lot of smoke and also then someone has been struck by lightning or was very close to it, it can cause some kind of reaction in your body and I was given an injection for this. I was also suffering from shock. I didn’t really understand what they were on about but I guess I just took their word for it.
I was not allowed back in the house for over two hours which by that time the firefighters had deemed it safe enough to enter. Thankfully, apart from smoke and soot damage and debris throughout, it was only the roof that was gutted and the damage to the rest of the house was fairly superficial.
Still, it took £40,000 to put it right again. Thankfully I was insured.
Even more thankfully, I was grateful just to be alive.
It is worth mentioning that this was the only time in my life since I lost my hearing that I had every heard anything without the aid of any devices. My hearing loss was measured at 120 decibels - to give you an idea of how loud that is, it is nearly twice as loud as Concorde taking off which is only 110db.
Back at the Nore - a pub that I and my family owned and located some 400 metres away from the house, my mother and father were watching the storm having just closed up when they saw a massive flash and heard a huge explosion. Little did they know that it had nearly hit me. It’s a strange thought to think that they could have witnessed my death and yet knew nothing about it!
There are two newspaper reports on this event but they got a few facts wrong as they sourced the information from a number of people as well as myself.