The things I GAINED in the fire.
Many of us lost a lot this past week. I’m still making lists in my head. Everyday something gets added. It’s hard. It’s brutal. But LOSS isn’t all that happened.
This past week I’ve learned that people, as a whole, are amazingly kind and generous. That even though the media and outside forces often try to divide us we mostly want each other to succeed.
Without details just know that I escaped the fire with hardly more than the shirt on my back. Satan’s breath chased me out of a valley engulfed in a firestorm I’ve only seen in movies. I’m still not sure how I survived. But I did.
I met people at a local Target who lost everything. Every. Thing. Every keepsake, remembrance, memento or trinket that’d been passed down for generations and/or gathered just in the last 35 years. It was all gone. They had nothing, just ash and pools of molten metal.
Some of these people were much older, younger, poorer or richer than me. The diversity was vast. Fire does not discriminate. These people were sad. So god damn sad but when I told them that I’d lost my place the first thing they did was genuinely offer up their sorrow for my situation. They asked “do you need anything?” I’ve felt so much fucking love. I gained so much fucking love.
I didn’t feel worthy of their sorrow. My children are safe. Their mother and most of their belongings went unscathed minus a few scrapes on my end. But they are safe. The most precious thing I’m apart of is fine.
Not everyone can say that. Those that can’t say that hurt more than me. I gained that perspective. They have it worse. No matter how screwed I think I am, I meet someone who’s got it worse. And it makes me grateful. I gained a new sense of gratefulness.
Sometimes (or at least for myself) we are guilty of going about our daily routines deep in our own heads. As if no one else matters. Mulling over our pain and tragedy and forgetting others hurt too.
We honk our horns when someone doesn’t accelerate fast enough at a green light, curse them when they take forever to write a check at the grocery store after using 18 coupons. Hammer our steering wheels when people take too long to cross a street so we can turn fucking right and get to that appointment we should’ve left fifteen minutes earlier for. This list goes on forever and I gained the realization that it’s all petty, petty as shit. Means nothing.
I’ve gained the knowledge that I’m better than that. Most of us are.
I’ve gained the ability to decipher who my real friends are and. even better how fucking kind and selfless they are, something sadly I never focused on. The people who put me up, after the first exodus from the bowels of the horrific volcanic netherworld, were not the people I expected to rise. I’m ashamed I didn’t think that of them before.
I gained a new found appreciation for first responders. It’s real god damn easy to criticize police, fire, and other emergency personnel when things are just dandy in your life. “I pay your salary!” “Why aren’t you doing more!” etc, but when Beelzebub throws a flaming hot turd into your fan that’s blowing at 75 mph you never realize how much you need them. And while they’re risking it all to save your pile of replaceable attachments in equal vigor as they save your life they themselves are losing everything to the same consuming high level of Fahrenheit.
To the men and women on the line, I respect the fuck out of what you do. I ran out in a surreal, insane conflagration I’m still wrestling to grasp while you ran into it. Jesus.
Thank you and god speed while you beat the devil back to hell.
I gained a true love for you.
Mostly I gained a family. Built of friends, previous acquaintances and at intervals down right strangers. I gained hope and faith in humanity. I gained. the true spirit of community. From right here in my charred, ash strewn back yard and across the nation as well.
This fucking City pulled together and owned it. Santa Rosa, God damn I love you, never been prouder to call you Home. I will forever be grateful. We are strong. We are united.
Yes, many of us lost a great deal in this fire. Please, never forget what we gained. We gained strength. We gained unity. We gained community. We gained the power to regroup and rebuild. We gained value in each and every person in our lives no matter how little we think they are a part of us.
I can only hope that we all gained the ability to continue this sense of pride and community long after the ash is cleared. I love this place. I love it’s people.