I woke up to a newfeed full of wildfire pictures in my neighborhood. I can only imagine how terrifying it would be to wake up to wildfire outside the windows of the house.
I've lived in a lot of places. I was born during a snowstorm in a cold Ohio winter. In first grade I remember sitting outside in the hallway with my class as we waited for our teacher, who was late from the flooding, to show up. I can clearly picture, over 10 years ago, the dark maroon clouds creeping up the open sky, transforming a sunny summer day to a stormy night in a matter of minutes. I grew up counting the seconds between the lightning and the thunder. From as early as I remember to about three years after I moved to California, I would be plagued with anxious nightmares: a tornado off in the distance. Running down the stairs, frantically pulling out the curtain from the window next to my piano, hitting the lever and feeling my house sink into the ground as the tornado rips through my street at that very moment.
I grew up in snow days and snow-related power outages. I also grew up in "wind days" where we would get out of school due to severe windy climate, and earthquake drills. I grew up walking across campus, ashes drifting through the air. I grew up terrified of the eerily steady rocking of an earthquake, holding on to my mother late at night, recognizing the green tint in the sky of an imminent typhoon, in a foreign place with foreign storms. In a childhood filled with a plethora of terrorizing storms, the one that would nearly shake me to tears after all of these experiences was not "natural" like a thunderstorm, not physically paralyzing like an earthquake. In fact, I wasn't even there.
And then came the pictures.
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The amber flames licking the very hills I called home. In the ten years I've called that small town, that poised neighborhood, that belle petite maison home, no, un casa acogedor y linda...the longest I have ever called anywhere home...it has never been threatened to be taken away from me. But when I saw those pictures.. Posted by friends from home.. Who I know live within a few streets from me.. Taking pictures of the red-orange glow amidst the charcoal smoke from their very backyards...my heart stopped. I spent the next hour systematically staying updated between filtered instagram photos, fearful or sarcastic (but informative) facebook statuses, frantic text messages with family, and live updates from a range of local and national news outlets.
27 hours later. 10% containment. And it's spreading.
I was torn. Probably physically shaken. Relying on social media as a source of information, I watched as the fire neared my house. I watched as my small town made it to national news. I read frantic statuses asking for a place to stay. I read more statuses offering places to stay. I was moved by the sheer number of people extending help. Shelter, help with packing, watering, evacuating. I was heartbroken reading all of the pleas for safety from dear friends, who like me, were dying being away from family, unsure if they would have a home to go back to for the summer. I was touched by all of the expressions of concern from people who once called my neighborhood home. By the caring teachers who made sure every child was safe before heading to homes far from threat. By the firefighters and volunteers who mobilized at astonishing efficiency to protect our home. By all of my friends here at school who cheered me up, checking up periodically to make sure everything was okay.