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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Smoke and Fire


In some ways it’s been a typical afternoon and evening for me. I’ve spent a few hours assisting with homework, taking out the trash and cleaning up messes. I’ve washed dishes, done laundry and cut fabric.

 
But in another huge way, tonight is anything but business as usual. My county is fighting eight big fires as I type. While I sit safe at home, 23,000 people have been ordered to evacuate their homes. I can’t take my eyes off the news. I’m watching the changes in the sky north of here—a brownish-orange stripe slowly becoming a orangey-gray sky. I’m texting friends to see if they have evacuated and need a place to stay. I’m listening to voicemails about whether school is cancelled tomorrow. 22 school districts will be closed.  


How’s this for incongruity: watching the news in horror while my wind chimes make soothing music in the breeze and the ice cream truck cruises my neighborhood, playing its incessantly cheerful melody.


I’m so grateful we’re not evacuating and that my corner of this county is not in jeopardy. But the craziness is only fifteen or twenty miles away. It does hit home. I recognize these street names. I painted murals in homes in the neighborhoods where smoke and flames have replaced our usual May Gray.
 
It reminds me of other years with bad fires. I remember the Cedar Fire in October of 2003, the largest wildfire in California history. The air was disgusting all over the county. Our neighborhood wasn’t directly in harm’s way but I felt sad for the San Diegans who were. I wanted to help, and so I volunteered at the Red Cross, answering phones as people called in donations. Some called in to give money. One restaurant owner called from Orange County, telling me he had hot food ready to drive down to the fire crews.
 

These tragedies eclipse differences people have with their neighbors, or attitudes we may have about other neighborhoods. When the chips are down, we’re just all San Diegans and we want things to be okay in our county. We’re people first. We pull together and we want to help make things right. I don’t when this disaster will be behind us. I’m not sure exactly how I’ll support the San Diegans who are affected by this mess, who may have lost their homes already. But I will do something to help the people of this county. It’s what you do.   

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