Alissa Moreno's life changed in the blink of an eye when she and her family escaped their house before a fire destroyed it.
"We were all sleeping in our beds at 5:55 on Saturday morning, when my husband, Jason, heard a loud noise. He thought someone was breaking in and ran downstairs to figure out what was going on. He couldn't see any open doors or windows and then the alarm started beeping, so he wondered if the intruder was now trying to get out," the singer-songwriter exclusively tells Morning Honey of the scary incident. "Such a confusing moment to wake up to! He looked out the back window and saw flames and then realized it was not an intruder, but our hot tub was on fire on the back deck."
To make matters worse, Moreno's mom, dad and their two dogs, who all live in the suite below, had heard noises as well and also ran out to see what was going on. Fortunately, an alarm woke Moreno up, and she came downstairs to find Jason running out to the back deck, yelling, "Oh my God, oh my God" as he tried to keep everyone safe from the flames.
Moreno then woke up her three boys, and "we marched straight outside without stopping to put on clothes, without stopping to grab our cash or phones or computers, which were all close by. We were already dealing with a large amount of smoke by that time, so every second counted. And by the way, no item is worth stopping for in this situation because it all happens so fast and the smoke disorients you, and ultimately, it can kill you long before the flames do," she explains.
"By the time we got out back to help Jason with the fire extinguisher and the hose, a window blew and fire overtook the whole house almost instantly," she recalls. "It was clear that he had to get out and that there was no containing the fire at this point. The next course of action was to alert the neighbors on each side so they could run to safety and call 911 on whoever's phone made it out."
The alarm company had called for one fire truck to come when the smoke alarm went off, but this "communication was crucial because within 16 minutes the whole house was up in smoke and flames were lapping out the windows," she shares. "It required two chiefs, four stations and 15 service vehicles to contain the fire. What I remember the most was firemen running into the flames we had just run out of and thinking how incredibly brave it was of them to leave their families behind on a Saturday morning to come help complete strangers."
After the whole ordeal, Moreno admits she "was a new person."
"When the lives of so many people you love — and your own life — come that close to ending, very few things matter after. The antique family heirlooms, the music awards, the walls we painted meticulously over quarantine, the baby books..." she says.
Unfortunately, Moreno also lost copies of her Grammy nominations, which was also hard to come to terms with.
"The wall above my piano is a snapshot of my career and passion that I have dedicated my life to, essentially since I started playing violin and studying and performing music as a young child," she notes. "Achievements and notoriety are a very strange thing in the art world, because, in a way, our validation as creators and performers starts to come from the outside world, not from the healing powers of the art itself. It has reminded me to focus only on the gift of music, writing, and performing it, and it's re-teaching me that the only real reason I do it is because I love it. Some of my awards survived but have melted or have burn marks, and we re-framed those and one will now hang at one of my favorite venues in Nashville, and the other will hang in a beloved publishing office in town."
She continues, "Some are in the dump already, some were completely melted and unidentifiable. In a weird way, none of it matters because the past is the past. I also have amazing friends in the business who are looking to help get reissues for me, and that's what means the most — their love and care and attention to something like this. The fun part is getting to connect and talk with people I don't get to talk to daily, or to tell them about things they didn't even realize I had done, or discuss songs they didn't know I had written."
Despite experiencing the tragic moment, Moreno, who has always loved singing and has written with Rascal Flatts, in addition to being featured on some TV shows, is working on new music.
"I'm heading to the studio this week with Neilson Hubbard and the crew that played with me on Meet Again," she says, referring to the album she released in March.
"This album was a long time coming. My career as an indie artist, playing the Hotel Cafe on Sunday nights in Hollywood really pivoted when TV shows and other artists started showing interest in my songs," she says. "It was wonderful, and it really validated what I was doing, and in another way, it really took me away from performing and making art for myself. As I signed my first publishing deal with a major and moved to Nashville to be surrounded by the best of the best, I quietly started to lose my own voice. It was strange. I was in a circle of amazing people, but I wasn't being my authentic self and they could feel it on some level. It became clear that I needed to do my own stuff again. I sat in my basement and let songs flow out on my old upright I'd had since my 20s. I wrote songs in bed nursing my little middle to sleep. I wrote melodies to the windshield wipers in the rain. I rewrote old songs that never felt quite right in their original form. I finished songs for my first born that I never completed. I wrote a song to my first love who is no longer with us, and to a child I lost long before he or she could ever be born into this world. It was so inspiring. So healing, and it brought me hope."
Going forward, Moreno has a lot left to achieve. "I'd love to create more art like shows and films and stories. I've done it in the past, and it is so rewarding to watch it all unfold from a tiny idea into a massive collaboration!" she exclaims.