Reflections on a Tragedy

Yesterday morning I woke up, a bit earlier than usual, with a heavy heart. Something was on my mind and I just couldn’t stop thinking.

As I lay in bed listening to rain falling on our skylights, all I could think was, “Lord can’t you please send this rain to California? They need it so desperately….”

And I starting thinking about the tragedy that is ongoing in that state, all the way across the country from where we are. How so many, many people’s lives have literally been ripped apart. Entire towns wiped out, burned to the ground, with nothing left to salvage but ashes. One minute you’re in your comfortable cozy home, and the next you are fleeing for your very life, with nothing much more than the clothes on your back, your family and hopefully your pets thrown in the car, and praying you can get to safety before you’re engulfed in a massive conflagration.

I cannot even begin to imagine it.

My mind started imagining hoards of people…families scrambling to pick out just a very few items to take with them, knowing it was the very last time they’d see their home standing. Their possessions, their memories, being stolen from them by a force completely out of their control. Children crying and screaming, not understanding any more than their parents. And not knowing whether they’d make it out alive, or if their friends or family members would either.

The pictures we’ve seen are horrible, but I’m sure they are nothing compared to being there, in the middle of it, and experiencing a nightmare that is unimaginable, and one in which you know you will not wake up from. These people who made it out, and the ones who are still fleeing, have literally lost everything. Their homes, their possessions, their very way of life. They’re now faced with picking up what pieces can be salvaged, and trying to figure out how to start over.

Not only have they lost their homes, but the clothes they wore, and in many cases their vehicles, many of which had pieces of plastic literally starting to melt off as they frantically drove away to safety.

We’ve seen the pictures; watched the videos. We’ve seen the firefighters, exhausted beyond belief still trying to stop this inferno and prevent even more destruction.

People have died horrible deaths. From smoke inhalation to bring burned alive. Many are still missing and feared dead. Families and friends are waiting for news of loved ones, praying for the best, and fearing the worst.

It is literally hell on earth out there.

Over 11,000 structures have been destroyed, the majority being homes. Hundreds of people are in shelters, not knowing their future. The death toll is riding and hundreds more are unaccounted for, and may never be found.

And it’s not over yet.

Imagine yourself suddenly faced with this situation. Your home is gone. So are your clothes. Your family photos, any and all of your treasured family mementos.

You probably don’t have your insurance information, and even if you do, how long will it take to process your claim amidst the thousands of others that are out there. And how long will it take to find a place to live, even a tiny apartment or camper?

Most likely your place of employment is gone, and may never be there again. You have no source of income and no

idea when you’ll have a paycheck again.

Your doctors’ offices are gone and so is their medical equipment. Hospitals have been destroyed. Your medical records hopefully still exist on line, but cannot be accessed right now. If you’re out of medication, chances are you have no quick way of getting refills because the pharmacies are gone. Those who rely on oxygen to stay alive, or other electrical powered equipment…what will happen to them? The critically ill patients who were in those hospitals in harms’ way, whose terrified caregivers struggled to get them to safety…what about them?

Food will have to be brought in from other areas, and you’ll have to be satisfied with whatever you’re given, whether you like it or not. Shelters are full and overflowing. There’s no privacy, and already survivors are getting sick from the smoke, the living conditions, and lack of medication.

Pregnant women are facing giving birth under conditions they never imagined. New parents are trying to figure out how to feed their infants, provide diapers, and keep them safe in a world turned upside down.

Schools are gone, and parents are worrying about educating their kids, giving them some sense of normalcy in a situation that has taken away their childhood innocence.

Think of your day to day life. Now imagine it ripped away from you in a matter of minutes. And now looters are going around and stealing what little is left in the abandoned homes and businesses that have somehow survived this holocaust.

Nothing will ever be the same for these victims.

And next week is Thanksgiving. What do the survivors have to be thankful for? Besides being alive.

That’s a big thing to be thankful for.

And then there’s Christmas soon to follow. And I can guarantee each family is, instead of wanting gifts, merely wishing for things just to be the same before the fire. I wish that, too, and if I could make it happen I would.

What is being done to help these thousands of wildfire victims? Actually I have no idea. I’ve seen very little so far about what is being done to help. There is bound to be a housing crisis, food shortages, medical needs we can’t even imagine, and psychological counseling that will likely be needed for the survivors for years. The monetary effects will be astronomical, let alone the human toll on the families affected.

What I continue to hear in the news though, are people still complaining about election results, congressional leadership, anti-Trump vs. pro-Trump infighting, fake news, and how the caravan of immigrants is going to ruin our country. And let’s not forget those who are blaming each political side’s views on climate change and forestry mismanagement for causing the fires. Or even worse, those who are saying California is burning because of their sins; how God doesn’t really care about them. I have no words except “please shut up!”

Why don’t we spend more of our energy on planning what to do to help the people affected by this ongoing tragedy than this so-called election fraud? Or arguing about who should have White House press credentials? Or continuing to insult the other political side for everything they can possibly be accused of, just to stir up trouble and keep their names in the news?

Where are our priorities? Are we that self-centered that we don’t let such things concern us until it threatens to happen to us?

I don’t know what I can do to help, other than donate to various fund raising organizations, but how long will it take those funds to reach and help those who need help right now? And they do need that help. Now. And for months and months to come.

Let’s not forget. It could be us.

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