Truthfully, I’m posting this message with mixed emotions. As some of you know, my family’s house and community were destroyed by Monday’s Tubbs fire in Northern California. Although the terrifying image of burning embers streaking across the early morning sky are still fresh in my mind, I am incredibly grateful that my family was able to safely escape.
Having lived in California for the past 20 years, I’ve long recognized that natural disasters including earthquakes and road-side grass fires could be a part of my family’s life. I never could have imagined, however, the sheer magnitude and wide-spread destruction of the Northern California fires (as I post this, the fires are nearly 200,000 acres – larger than New York City), especially in a dense residential area. Even when I woke up that morning to the smell of smoke and went out to the back patio, unfortunately not checking the front porch, I assumed the fire must be far away. In fact, I didn’t realize Fountaingrove was on fire until it was almost too late.
For the next few days, I was filled with self-blame and regret. Why had I not been more alert or prepare emergency escape bags in advance. I thought most about my family’s sentimental objects: old photos albums I had not gotten a chance to scan into digital files, the height chart on the kitchen wall, my son’s collection of Lego sets accumulated since he was just three years old, and all of the beautiful dresses my daughter and I had selected and created for her piano recitals and competitions.
In losing my home, however, I discovered just how strong and incredible this community is. Friends, family and even complete strangers have reached out, some from hundreds, even thousands of miles away with support, guidance and prayers. Never has our family felt so lucky to be loved and cared for by so many. We and the countless other families afflicted by these fires are eternally grateful.
While I recognize that the fires are far from over and the road to recovery is long and challenging, there is light at the end of the tunnel. We came to North America with two small suitcases (knowing no one) and built a life. Now back in the same situation but with a wealth of friends, I am confident we will rebuild even stronger.
To all the families affected by this fire, I urge you to stay safe, help one another, pray, and trust that the future is still bright.