As with any hashgocha protis story, there are signs and signals from all different directions, loose ends that ravel up to the climax of the miracle. In this case, our story may begin back on Rosh Hashona.
R' Friedman comes from a line of real baalei tefila, the kind whose gifted voice has the power to arouse Jews to heartfelt prayer. He, himself, is often so overcome, that he must pause to collect himself before continuing on. This is what happened this past Rosh Hashona, when he came to the poignant phrase of "Mi boeish..." in Nesane Tokef preceding mussaf kedusha.
We skip fast forward to Shabbos Parshas Shlach.
It was late Shabbos afternoon and R' Gedaliah Shofnos had just finished his usual weekly study session with his chavrusa. They invariably carried over beyond their agreed hour, and R' Gedaliah always walked his partner in the opposite direction of his home, towards shul for mincha. This time, inexplicably, they finished some scant minutes before the appointed time, and R' Gedaliah felt a nagging urge to hurry home.
As he approached, he noticed a very flustered woman running wildly towards his neighbor's house, while the neighbor, herself, was standing petrified by the doorway, seemingly in a state of shock. Smoke was pouring out of their home, and he rushed right into the apartment.
"It was as if I had entered a dimension where time did not exist. The house was already filled with smoke and I couldn't see a thing."
He rushed out and went home, trying desperately to collect his thoughts. One neighbor asked for a wet rag, another for some buckets. He said "Fire" to his child and signalled him to call the fire department. Then he went back to the burning house. "I rushed frantically from room to room, wildly thrusting my hands across the beds and flinging everything to the ground in my search for any children who might be trapped inside the house. When I was halfway through, I found myself in the hallway, where flames illuminated some white tzitzis fringes and their garment. I grabbed for this bundle and shoved it forward and out the door."
R' Gedaliah had saved a life. His eleven-year-old neighbor had been sleeping on a bed and been dumped to the floor, where he awoke, groggy and disoriented. He staggered to the hall and stood helpless, overcome by the smoke. He had been thrust outside where he soon regained consciousness, but he and R' Gedaliah were taken to the hospital for observation to ascertain whether they were suffering from carbon monoxide blood poisoning and if smoke had done any damage to their lungs. Thank G-d, they were released the following morning.
The damage to property was extensive. In the living room, where the faulty fan had ignited into flames, furniture was burned and plastic-formica melted down. The seforim were ruined, but, amazingly, the tefillin and mezuza -- the parchments, alone -- remained in excellent condition.
"It's a good thing it was your house," quipped R' Gedaliah to his neighbor later on in the week, "and not someone else's. I know the layout blindfolded."
Several people noted that in the parsha that week, the laws of tzitzis are taught. R' Gedaliah was struck by an interesting thought. "It says, `Ur'isem oso - and you shall see it', which also translates into Hebrew as `him.' Indeed, it was the white fringes which had caused R' Gedaliah to detect the stunned child.
We were told that R' Friedman had, at some time in the past, also entered a burning house and saved a neighbor's child...