Fires are heartbreaking, but won’t consume our spirit

Oregon is on fire. My heart and my mind are so focused on the terrible fires that are taking so many homes, businesses – and, most probably, the lives of our neighbors in Lane County – that it’s difficult to know how to express my thoughts and anguish … and fears.

People have awakened to the fact we are all in this together. Whether or not we are categorized for evacuation, we all carry the burden of what is happening. Each of us most likely knows others who have had to evacuate their homes, and many of us know some who have actually lost not only their homes, but so much more.

One close friend and extended family member posted this sentiment on Facebook as she and her husband were leaving their home in the Mohawk Valley: “We are evacuating!! Level 2! God is good! … It’s just stuff!”

Another friend’s Significant Other, who lives in the Sweet Home area, has had to evacuate his horses and pets – and himself – under Level 3, but he keeps trying to return to evacuate more of his life that he can’t bear to leave behind, saying “I’ve worked my whole life for what I have!” He’s no longer allowed to try.

The morning after the Holiday Farm Fire broke out near Blue River, we were informed that those fighting the fire in the early hours feared that the McKenzie High School was lost overnight. The fire was bearing down on it as they took measures to protect it as best they could. It became my focal point – my biggest connection to the area that was, and is, on fire.

The thought that it had burned brought the horror of it all home to me and I cried for those I knew who were suffering. Memories of spending many, many years in the stands at the tiny, old McKenzie gymnasium watching our kids from Crow High School – the Cougars – compete against the Eagles, flooded in. Added to them were the memories of our grandkids, as Cougars, playing the Eagles in their beautiful new gymnasium in which the Blue River community took so much pride.

For me, those “memory pictures” put a face on the reality of the horror being faced all over our state. Visualizing its loss and knowing that it could have easily been our community that was being destroyed brought more tears. Fortunately, we have since heard that the measures taken by those firefighters that morning were successful, and the school still stands.

Few buildings in the town were as fortunate. I saw a photo of a beautiful church on fire in Blue River and the skeletons of cars and foundations of houses that mark where homes once stood. They bring the real horror of it all to life.

Right now, each of us must offer whatever we can – shelter, sanctuary and transportation for the evacuees and their pets and livestock; supplies and help for the firefighters on the front line; food, clothing, personal and household items, ice chests, bedding. Prayers. “There, but for the grace of God, go I …”

Weather forecasts predict that winds are abating and there’s a possibility of rain early next week. If those happen, it will be a godsend … but will it be in time to provide the much-needed help our brave men and women on the front lines need to gain control over these wildfires? In the meantime, we pray to whatever version of “god” we have chosen, help in whatever way we can, and work to help ensure this never happens again, if at all possible.

Thank you to all of those who are risking their lives and health by fighting these fires. In my opinion, you have already earned your place in heaven.

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