52 Ancestors – Week #12: Misfortune – "Saved by the Hamster"

I could have used this story for last week’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge as it truly ended up a story about luck. But, since most people would consider losing the top floor of their home to fire, it fits this week’s theme of Misfortune, pretty well.
Julie Chen with
Meg and my mom

Those of you who have known me for some time have no doubt heard this story. Maybe more times than you cared to! The tale of how our hero hamster, Snowball, saved our family from a house fire has been well documented in the media. Reported originally in local papers, the story aired on regional TV news before getting picked up by the AP wire service. From there it went viral (before going viral was even a thing!) Radio stations from coast to coast called to interview our daughter Meghan, the owner of our hero. 

In 1997, Meghan our youngest daughter was very shy and pretty much mute. The previous year, when she was in second grade, it wasn’t until April that she actually started speaking to her teacher! So, you can imagine how reluctant she was to chat on the phone. She avoided getting interviewed by the local TV news personalities She hung in the background as much as possible when Julie Chen came to interview her for CBS news. My mother loved that, though! 
This is the only  picture we got –
upstairs after fire
You can enlarge this article to read to story of how we were
saved by Meghan’s hamster, Snowball.

We got a call from a guy who offered to take professional portraits of Meg and her older sister, Caitlin.  He would take pictures of them using the burned second floor as background, he said. The portraits would be free, he said. Beautiful, dramatic 8×10 pictures, he said. A week later or so, we saw the result of his work. On page 14 of the National Enquirer. We never got any portraits, but the frequency of phone calls for Meghan increased dramatically after that.

The next thing we know, we get a call from a representative of the Maury Povich Show asking us to join him on a segment he was going to do about miracles. Meghan, of course, said, “No!” She must have sensed the feelings of the rest of the family because, after thinking about it for awhile, she agreed. On one condition –
they had to transport us to New York in a limo. Not so shy anymore! We also recreated the fateful night of June 30, 1997, for an episode of Melissa Etheridge’s show, Beyond Chance (Click on that link to see the clip!). We spent an entire day filming what would become a 10-minute segment on the Animal Planet show, Wild Rescues

Stretch limo? Yes, please!

Meghan and Snowball’s story turned up in Nickelodeon magazine and an issue of the Scholastic News. It was the first story in the book Animal Rescues by Jeanne Betancourt.  Caitlin even got a call from some guy in Israel asking about our hero hamster.
Here’s where the fire started – the BX cable shorted –
Just inches from where Meghan was sleeping!

You are probably thinking, this really doesn’t sound like a story about misfortune. It probably isn’t. Yes, we lost the entire top floor of our home. We couldn’t live there for months until the damage was repaired. It was very scary. The fish died. Meghan’s Beanie Baby collection was severely diminished. The first couple weeks after the fire were very stressful. Luckily, my sister Kathy and her husband owned a cottage in Milford where we could stay while our home was being rebuilt. We enjoyed the summer t
here. The dog – not so much! He was attacked by the fleas residing in the cottage and had his ear bitten by a stray dog on the beach! 

Caitlin looks through the kitchen ceiling
to the floor above.

Dormer in progress

But from misfortune can come a gift. We learned how supportive our neighbors were. We were all alive and well. The cat, dog, and the hamster all survived, We got new beds, new clothes, and new toys. We were able to remodel our dining room, expand our upstairs and install a hard-wired smoke alarm system, none of which we could have afforded otherwise.Meghan came into her own. And we all got a family story that will live on forever!

All rebuilt!!!

One thought on “52 Ancestors – Week #12: Misfortune – "Saved by the Hamster"

  1. WOW WOW WOW I never heard this story and I'm so impressed by Snowball's fierce loyalty and love for your daughter. Hero indeed! I can't tell you how relieved I am that this misfortune ended in luck after all.


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