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September 23, 2009 , Posted by byu at 5:05 AM

By Sharon Bryan

In my lifetime, I have heard people remark that a fire can be the deadliest thing on earth. Others have said a fire can be beautiful with its colors of orange and red against a dark sky or a sunny sky.

One day, many years ago, I found out what a fire can do. I did not think it was beautiful, but I learned how deadly it can be.

My cousin was staying with us. She was four years older than I and seven and-a-half years older than my brother. I was nine that year. Grandma was downstairs in the kitchen, getting supper ready. My parents and grandpa hadn't gotten home from work yet. I was in my room, painting a picture. My brother was playing with some of his trucks in his room.

My cousin walked into my bedroom and asked if I wanted to play a game. "What kind of game?" I asked her

"Fire," she said. I didn't understand. She pulled out a matchbook of matches. I knew right then and there I didn't want to play her game, whatever it was.

On my windows, like so many homes in those days back in the 50s, hung plastic curtains. They had a ripple look to them with red roses and green leaves. They sort of matched the wallpaper on my walls. My cousin struck a match. I jumped off my bed and ran to the door. She was standing about a foot from the window. She blew it out and laughed at me. I looked at her, thinking she was stark nuts. She lit another match.

By this time, my brother had entered the doorway to my room. He watched her light a match, then looked at me. She laughed again, then in the blink of an eye, my curtain was on fire. I saw in an instant the flames catch the wallpaper on fire. I ran out of my room and flew down the stairs screaming for my grandma.

I remember her meeting me at the end of the long staircase and me yelling, "My bedroom's on fire!" Grandma raced up the stairs. By then, my cousin was in the hallway, staring as my whole room was ablaze in red and gold colors. The heat was intense. Grandma raced back downstairs and told the operator to get the fire department to our address right away. In minutes, I could hear the sirens screaming as they came down our street.

Grandma made all of us go outside. I watched as the red and gold colors snaked from the roof of the house. It was getting dusk out, so I saw the blazing colors against a darkening sky.

After the fire department got the fire out, we had lost a large section of our roof. I lost all my clothes, all my dolls and toys that day. From that day on, I have never liked matches. I don't like wallpaper either. Although, I know paint would have caught fire just as fast.

When the commotion was over with, and we were asked WHO had the matches, my cousin pointed at me. My grandparents knew I did not play with matches. Neither did my brother. They knew who did it. My brother and I told the truth about the pack of matches she had gotten hold of. I remember my cousin getting the licking of her life for the incident.

Yes, a fire can be "beautiful" against a darkened sky, but it can also destroy everything you have. As I watch the news and see what is happening in California, it brought back so many memories of that day long ago in Detroit.

--Sharon Bryant

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