Kreppel (left) and her
daughter, Jennie, were
at home the night of
the ;re; Jennie was
upstairs doing homework. Four years later,
Kreppel is “living life
harrowing January night in her house
or on her face. Before she was released
from the hospital, a friend replaced the
burned chairs around her kitchen table
so Kreppel wouldn’t have to see them.
;e only small reminder of the accident
is a scu;ed area on the wooden floor
where the pot landed. ;e mark used
to be a solid black circle before Kreppel
refinished the floor. Looking at it sometimes makes her wonder: What if I’d just
left the pot in the sink that night?
The what-ifs still swirl around in
Kreppel’s head: What if she’d known
where her fire extinguisher was—and
how to use it? (She now has one on
every level of her home.) What if the
fire had happened in her old house,
where the nearest exit led to a porch
with an awning that would have kept
the ground clear of snow? What if she’d
just focused on one thing at a time?
“I feel like it’s my fault because I was PHOT
into a pair of oven mitts and carried the
pot to the sink. ;e flames leaped higher.
“I was thinking my house was going to
burn down,” she says. “I just wanted to
carry the pot outside.” She was moving
toward the sliding glass door when she
saw fire on her sleeve.
Kreppel does not know what sounds
came out of her mouth that night as she
rolled in the snow—screams, moans,
words, full sentences, maybe nothing
at all. But she’ll never forget the voices
in her head. Oh my God, what have
I done to my children? It’s over. I don’t
want it to be over. For a moment, she felt
peace, a sense of surrender. But the self-talk returned. What have I done to my
;en somehow, the flames vanished.
;e rolling stopped. Kreppel picked her-
self up and went back into the kitchen,
her body wracked with pain. She saw her
17-year-old daughter, Jennie, standing
somewhere between her and the front
door talking on her cellphone. ;at’s
when the voices started again: What had
her daughter seen?
NEARLY FOUR YEARS AFTER the accident, Kreppel, 52, is sitting at a round
glass table in her kitchen, wearing jeans,
a navy blazer and a striped top. Her
golden retriever, Riley, saunters in and
out. She’s “living life again,” as she puts
it. ;is past summer she spent time with
her kids on the boat she keeps in Woodbridge, Virginia, pulling them through
the water on skis and inner tubes. For a
year after the accident, Kreppel couldn’t
stay in the sun.
She’s been traveling a lot—“glamping”
with friends in Ithaca, New York, and
vacationing in the Baltic region last June.
She skis in the winter, another passion
she shares with her kids, and goes running. ;ere are no obvious traces of that