What would you save in a disaster?

Here and Now

This story was originally covered by PRI’s Here and Now. For more, listen to the audio above.

The website “The Burning House” forces people to ask themselves, what would you take with you if your house was on fire? “The idea for the burning house spawned out of a dinner conversation,” the website’s creator, Foster Huntington, told PRI’s Here and Now. “We were talking about online dating, and people were going through what kinds of questions they would ask on their profiles to figure out what people were about. I asked the table, what would you take if your house was burning, and immediately everybody had an answer.”

“You can tell a lot about what people are into” by their answers, according to Huntington. Photographers tend to bring their photos or their cameras. Musicians bring their musical instruments. People bring objects with sentimental meaning. And they’re all artfully displayed in photomontages on the site.

In one submission, a woman said that she looked at the site 45 minutes before her apartment building caught on fire. Her apartment was fine, but it forced her to consider what was important. He’s also gotten submissions from other countries, exposing cultural trends and influences.

One of Huntington’s favorites comes from Sandra Belanger, a 52-year-old anthropologist who said:

My house burned to the ground in 1977, lost everything. I learned that material possessions are unimportant. However, in a pinch I would take the hard drive and Horus [a parrot] and leave everything else. Am about to get a safe deposit box to keep an extra hard drive in so I would just take Horus and come back and dig the tektite out of the ashes. Word to all the folks with big piles of stuff: You have way less time than you think.

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