31 Days Observing
I still receive emails from a news station in San Diego. I do this partly to keep informed of what is going on in the city I called home for 27 years and partly because our oldest still lives there and I want to be able to talk with her about her city and the news.
Yesterday I read where there was an anniversary of the first firestorm we experienced. It was 10 years ago yesterday that the Cedar Fire started in San Diego. October 25th, 2003 was a Saturday. We had heard there was a fire in the mountains, but for fire season, it is expected that there would be one or two in the mountains.
Sunday morning we woke up to a weird-looking sky. It was morning but it looked more like evening. Walking outside to get the newspaper the air hung heavy. It was hard to breathe. This was no ordinary fire.
We turned on the news and found out that the freeways had been closed. The freeways that would lead us to church on a Sunday morning. Our oldest drove down the driveway to head to church with us. She walked in the door and asked, “What’s up with this sky?” We told her and we all sat down to watch the television coverage of the fire.
Our oldest stayed the day with us and spent that night. She woke up the next morning and we told her to go get stuff that she would need for a few days. It was clear that her apartment complex would be in the path and was on the list for evacuation. She really did not want to stay with us, but she went to her place, grabbed some things and returned.
The fire, known as the Cedar Fire (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cedar_Fire) was a terrifying experience. Our home was safe, as was our surrounding area, but the devastation that reigned throughout the county was mind-boggling.
From our decks we could see fire truck after fire truck race toward the mountains. At one point we counted 15 in a row driving down the freeway. This was just one freeway to get to one area. The freeways in the other part of the county were just as filled with emergency vehicles.
The television remained on through most of the firestorm. The winds changed the course of the fire several times, putting lives in danger and more homes in the path of destruction.
I was amazed that it had been ten years since that first firestorm we experienced. I was amazed that when I read the headline of the anniversary of the fire, what was triggered in my memory and heart. All of my senses remember this fire. I can still smell that awful smell of burnt homes and lives and having to wear bandanas over your face so that it wouldn’t get into your lungs when you were outside. I remember my eyes stinging from the smoke, for weeks. I remember seeing the grit and the ash that lay on everything. Even a year later moving something outside that you thought you had already cleaned to see more ash hidden in the cracks of decking.
Most of all, I remember in early December driving up to my favorite mountain town to see how it was faring. We drove through a part of the mountains where we had camped with our children when they were young. The campgrounds were gone. The magnificent trees that provided fun and shade and home to squirrels and blue jays and woodpeckers were barely there, blackened and dead. The ranches with the beautiful white fencing around them were mere shells of what they were, the fencing melted along the roadside. A whole community wiped out. The sadness that overcame me when seeing this community is still palpable. My favorite mountain town, Julian, was spared. At least the main road, the business section, was spared.
The visit up to the mountains saw that places still smoked, still smouldered. It is a sight I will never forget. My children played in the forests there, it will be years before children will have the opportunity to see it restored completely.
But, the city stood together. People were taken care of. Slowly, homes were rebuilt. Slowly, life resumed. Slowly, those not personally affected, went on and began to forget the horror of those weeks. That is, until, you reach the anniversary like this one. The anniversary that recalls the images and the people and it comes flooding into your brain once more.
Thinking of those affected ten years ago, those who lost homes and businesses and those who lost family members. Today may they feel security and peace.