From the publisher – Jennifer Tschida

For those of us who didn’t see flames last Friday, the first sign of fire was the smoke that shrouded the sky and the ashes that began to fall like snow. I began wondering how bad this was going to be and if the firefighters were going to be able to squelch this as quickly as they had the numerous pop-ups last year. Then the exodus of birds from the trees indicated this was going to be bigger. This is what I noticed first, nature’s re­sponse. Within a half hour of the initial sirens the birds were all gone.

For those of us who didn’t see flames last Friday, the first sign of fire was the smoke that shrouded the sky and the ashes that began to fall like snow. I began wondering how bad this was going to be and if the firefighters were going to be able to squelch this as quickly as they had the numerous pop-ups last year. Then the exodus of birds from the trees indicated this was going to be bigger. This is what I noticed first, nature’s re­sponse. Within a half hour of the initial sirens the birds were all gone. It was then that I paused for a moment and sat trying to make sense of the ensuing chaos. Within an hour the sky had gone completely gray. Eerily, while some of Alpine looked like a ghost town, other parts had zooming vehicles, firetrucks, bull horns, evacuation orders, honking and sirens. Racing thoughts rushed in. What was I going to do? Join the birds?

While most of us who have lived up here for any period know fire happens. Commonly. That initial panic quickly becomes actionable ideas and plans. Gauging the likeliness of an evacuation and what to prioritize. I quickly went home and gathered documents, staged my animals and told my family to pack a couple of essentials in case we got the evacuation order and, worst case scenario, never got to come home. Of course we quickly dismissed this as a probable result. We decided we’d turn on the news and just wait. I even talked myself into not really packing anything as I would just have to unpack it.

It was, after all, 110 degrees at this point and the air quality was terrible. I told myself none of the things that I have collect­ed and surrounded myself with my whole life mattered. They were just material items, easily replaced. My kids, my husband, our pets mattered. The rest was just “stuff”.

Hours passed and after a very long day, night fell. Those who fled, tucked in on friends and families couches and hotel room beds, some even in their cars and those of us who were still home or refused to evacuate got into our own beds for a sleep­less night.

Turns out the harrowing truth is 34 families did not get to come back to that “stuff”. The items I thought meant noth­ing were now a reminder that friends and parents of friends came back to piles of ashes. My heart ached as countless people I knew became part of the lost structures list. The thought made me sick. “Lost structures!” To me it was more than that. It was all that “stuff” and even the unseen. It was a lifetime of memories and the love, joy and tears — the spirit that fills all the nooks and crannies of our homes. Up in smoke and gone so quickly.

By Sunday the birds started coming back. I heard them be­fore I saw them while I drank my morning coffee. They gave me comfort. I felt as though the worst had past and it had, for me. While I felt a sense of re­lief, others were just beginning what quite possibly could be the worst day of their lives. I imme­diately wanted to help. I wasn’t the only one.

Threads popped up all over community forums of donation sites, volunteers, GoFundMe pages almost at their goal, and an outpouring of kindness and well wishes. The entire com­munity made it clear they were and are here for the long haul. We are here to help our neigh­bors, friends and family mem­bers rebuild and heal. And just like that we all became birds, we were one collective phoenix ris­ing from the ashes to become stronger than before. That is what we do here. That is Alpine. We are strong, we pray and we act.

From the publisher – Jennifer Tschida

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here