We Ignored It Until 8 Fire Trucks Showed Up!
Person: “John Mauldin is a renowned financial expert, a multiple New York Times best-selling author, and a pioneering online commentator. His weekly e-newsletter, Thoughts From The Frontline, was one of the first publications to provide investors with free, unbiased information and guidance. Today, it is one of the most widely distributed investment newsletters in the world, translated into Chinese, Spanish and Italian. He is regularly seen on TV and in national print media. President of Millennium Wave Investments, he is the father of seven children and lives in Dallas, Texas.”
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Event: John Mauldin shared a personal story from Thanksgiving day, 2007. It was told to illustrate what he saw as a coming financial crisis ahead. Interestingly, it was 2008 when that crisis actually did come.
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Background (to the original story): Those darkening financial clouds became one reason that Barack Obama was elected as President of the United States. It was the year of the federal takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, Dow Jones fell almost 800 points in one day, the subprime mortgage scandal was just beginning, and then the passage of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008.
“The Federal takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac called US Government takes control of the two largest mortgage financing companies in the US, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.”
Hurricane Ike makes landfall on the Texas Gulf Coast of the United States, causing heavy damage to Galveston Island, Houston and surrounding areas.”
“Lehman Brothers files for Chapter 11, Title 11, United States Code or Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history.”
“The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 for the U.S. financial system is signed by President George W. Bush.”
“After Financial crisis of 2007–2008 known as critical failures in the US financial system began to build up after mid-September, the Dow Jones Industrial Average reaches its lowest level since 1997.” 
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His Story: 
A Thanksgiving Fire Drill
Last Thursday, we sat down for a massive Thanksgiving dinner at my 21st floor apartment in Dallas. All seven kids, my 90-year-old mother, and an assortment of friends and relatives (about 15 of us) started to work on a 16-pound prime rib, 18-pound turkey, and massive amounts of potatoes, mushrooms, and lots more. Grace was said, the wine was poured, and we were feeling good about life.
And then about 15 minutes into the meal, the fire alarm went off, telling us to evacuate. This was annoying, as it seemed like we have had a false alarm at least once every few weeks in the past few months. So, we did what we have done in the past and ignored the alarm. After all, this is a modern structure (only 4 years old) with fire sprinklers everywhere. We assumed that someone had a grease fire in their kitchen that would quickly be put out.
But the alarm kept sounding quite loudly, which did tend to interrupt conversation. As my dining room table is near the floor-to-ceiling window, we tended to look out when we heard sirens. And sure enough, the fire truck pulled up alongside the building. “Good,” we said, “they will get that grease fire under control.” And we continued eating and drinking, although with a heightened sense of concern. Fires in apartment buildings are not to be taken too lightly. Especially if you are on the top floor. People do die from them.
And then a second and a third fire truck parked underneath the window. That was a tad disconcerting, but surely they were just making sure that there was adequate back-up. It was when the 8th truck pulled up within a few minutes that I began to get more than a tad concerned. They were pulling hoses and running around very quickly.
At that point, we started trying to figure out how to leave; but how do we get a 90-year-old fragile lady down 21 flights of stairs? We spent a moment pondering that, and then my youngest son came back into the apartment to report that he could smell smoke a few floors down in the stairwell. Well, that was not good. #2 son said to come to his window at the back of the apartment, where we looked out and could see a rather significant amount of smoke coming from the 2nd and 3rd floors. No, this was not good at all. No one was panicking, but we began to think about how to get us down the stairwell and soon.
And then I got a call from a friend who was late coming to dinner. “The fire marshal told me that you have to get out of there NOW!” All this in just a few short minutes, mind you.
So, we started to move to the stairs. Fortunately, there were two rather big, strong young men at dinner (one was my oldest son and the other was a boyfriend who was just back from a tour in the army, but both chiseled out of granite). After several attempts, we decided that taking mother down piggyback would be the best. The young men took turns carrying her.
At first, I still thought it was overkill, but as we got to the 16th floor the smoke in the staircase was very apparent. By the 12th floor it was hard to breathe, and at the 7th floor the smoke was too thick to go on. One of the kids opened the hall door and went and checked the next stairwell, which was freer of smoke. So we changed exits and got out to the street, smelling of smoke – but we were all safe.
It seems some idiot must have tossed a cigarette down the trash chute and started a fire in what is a rather large trash collection bin for hundreds of apartments on the bottom two floors. The fire should have been contained, but the concern was that if anyone had left a trash-chute door open, the fire could have easily spread to a higher-level floor.
And what about the modern fire sprinklers in the trash collection area – the ones I was relying on? They inexplicably did not go off in the trash bin, allowing the fire to blaze on garbage and grease, but the heat rising set off the sprinklers in the trash chutes on higher floors, causing a lot of smoke as the water fell onto the trash, with the smoke escaping into the stairwells.
But all was not lost. It seemed that three of us grabbed a bottle of wine as we left! (“Train up a child in the way he should go…”) So, we sat outside and waited, sipping on a brilliant chardonnay and a full-bodied cabernet for an hour or so until the very professional firemen cleared the building of smoke and let us back up, where we finished dinner, with lots of stories to tell. And my middle daughter had her ten seconds of fame, as she made national news. It was more excitement than any previous Thanksgiving, and one we will talk about for years. 
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Article Quotes: (With Keywords you can pull down into the application)
- Grace was said, the wine was poured, and we were feeling good about life.
- This was annoying, as it seemed like we have had a false alarm at least once every few weeks in the past few months.
- So, we did what we have done in the past and ignored the alarm.
- a modern structure with fire sprinklers everywhere
- alarm kept sounding — quite loudly
- fire truck pulled up alongside the building. “Good,” we said, “they will get that grease fire under control.
- disconcerting, but
- 8th truck pulled up . . . more than a tad concerned
- down 21 flights of stairs
- smoke (but) No one was panicking
- got out to the street, smelling of smoke
- The fire should have been contained (if the lid was closed)
- the modern fire sprinklers . . . . did not go off
- three of us grabbed a bottle of wine as we left
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Key Illustrative Thoughts:
- Thinking again about the past
- Ignoring the warning signs
- Thinking we are safe.
- Feeling good about life!
- The “firemen” will take care of it.
- Trusting that what your pastor says about eternity is true
- What does it take to get some concerned?
- How many trucks are some waiting for?
- Danger and not knowing it
- We’re okay — this has happened before
- The older you are, the more difficult it is to get out
- How many flights are you up?
- What will it take to get down to safety?
- Is there another way out?
- What is the panic zone for you?
- A friend called.
- Warnings given
- “Get out now!”
- We got out — but smelling like smoke — unlike Shadrack
- Not all will get out safe.
- It should have worked, but it didn’t.
- Don’t think you are going to take anything with you.
2. Thoughts From The Frontline, by John Mauldin, November 28,2020 (originally published (link) November 20, 2007)
Re-ublished November 2020 — To make the the point that we need to be careful as we see some of the warning signs again in 2020!