Tuesday, April 24, 2012
The Darkness Descends
Yesterday was dark. I never managed to emerge from the clouds. I saw brief rays of sunshine but they passed quickly and disappeared back into the muck. As I sat down to write yesterday, all I could feel was a deep exhaustion. Hoping the day would bring some lightness to my mood, I chose to write later. Instead, by the end of the day, I couldn’t focus. Until Dusty came over and lifted my spirits, that is.
On Sunday night, we had the first meeting of the homeowners who lost homes. Putting faces to names and coming together as a group was good. Seeing the devastation in their faces was heart breaking. We are now bonded in ways that will sustain. We may drift out of each others lives, but we will never forget our connection. Having survived a fire and now dealing with the agony of putting our lives back together; we are part of a club that no one ever wanted to join. Grown men who were strangers a few weeks ago now openly share their tears. Women meet for the first time with open arms and deep sobs. We look knowingly into each others eyes. One neighbor shared her struggle with merely buying a bra – I understand. I haven’t been able to purchase my teakettle yet. I know I want it but can’t quite pull the trigger. For a shopper, this is weird. The joy is gone from shopping. It now resides in the column of overwhelming tasks.
Last night, another neighbor shared words that danced in my head all day, “it seems to be getting worse…” He went on to explain, “I was numb at first. In disbelief. Now the reality is setting in, along with the massive amount of work that needs to be done. And, the work that lies in front of us all seems unending. Life may never return to ‘normal’.” Hearing my thoughts come out of another’s mouth is validating, at least. We do know we are not alone.
Yesterday, those who lived on my road got confirmation of a very big hurdle we must clear - another "gift" of the fire. Part of the early appeal of our lovely home was its jeep path of a road that is our only access. The fire department isn’t as enchanted as we were. They say that unless we improve our road to current safety standards, they will not provide us with emergency services. I won’t go into all the details of this can of worms right now. Suffice it to say, it is necessary – and massively expensive. One price tag we have heard is a mere $150,000. It’s a good thing we have that lying around right now…
Yes, the darkness. It seems at every turn there are more hurdles, more red tape, and more things that need to be researched. I am becoming an expert in things I never wanted to know. They told us it would be like this. We hoped ‘they’ were wrong. And, add insult to injury, we continue to see statements such as those by our renegade cowboy Sherriff Ted Mink who admonished the 285 community last week by telling us we shouldn’t rely on 911 to keep us safe. Of course, there was no rebuttal allowed in that moment, no space to share the fact that we did not rely on 911 for if we had, we would be dead. Neighbors saved neighbors lives. We found other ways to access information. We supported each other. 911 operators told us not to worry. We used common sense and disregarded their advice. The overwhelming consensus among all neighbors who were impacted – if we had trusted 911 or relied on just that – many many more would have died that day.
With bile rising in my throat, I watched Mr. Mink express his view of the event where the Forest Service still peddles their claim that "they did everything they possibly could to make sure the fire was out and not just out but, cold and out.” Hmmm. We beg to differ – as does the Governors report. Ted Mink sure buys it though! Glad he isn’t biased. In this particular news segment, they share that the 3 men in a pick up truck who arrived at 10am on Monday to “check on things” packed up to go even after seeing the fire smoldering… and didn’t call for help for over 30 minutes. Good thing they had those hand tools – but apparently didn’t think to bring enough water. Where is the case of Evian when you need it? Also, such a good thing that they took Sunday off to have a little R&R even though that was breaking protocol… (You can read excerpts of the report here)
I have never cared to be a political activist; I have never written a letter to the government. I have checked all of this off as “handled” and put my attention elsewhere in life. On March 26th, all this changed too. I will write to the Sheriff. I will write to the Forest Service. I will write to the Governor. Watching our elected officials circle the wagons to protect their own is hugely disgusting. I can’t live in ignorance anymore. I must rally with my neighbors.
The most upsetting part of our meeting on Sunday was hearing from Scott Appel whose life has been shredded due to faulty decisions of some distracted bureaucrats. Scott implored us to gather together, to not let this fade from the memory of the public (as it already is), to keep our stories in the media for as long as possible. He begged us to seek justice. We are with you, Scott. We know we all narrowly escaped the fiery fate of your beloved wife.