Write Your Story Blog Series
As I finally get a moment to relax and wind down this Friday evening, I started to reflect on the night that drastically changed many of our lives four years ago.
Wow, did we actually live through that? Together?
I remember talking to a friend on the phone before heading to bed that night "I feel like I 'm Ichabod Crane riding through the woods unaware he is about to meet the headless horseman" I told him. There was an eerie feeling as the wind wheezed through our streets, trees and banged against our windows. I had just moved in my last box of items into my garage and was excited about sleeping for the first time in my new home.
Suddenly, as many of you, I was shaken awake by chaos that infiltrated our lives for what it seems like forever.
Although I honor and respect all that we went through as a community during those early hours, tonight, I am drawn to reflect on the "fight, sweat, inspiration, hope and love" that I have experienced knowing all of you and rebuilding "life" together.
Funny things pop up sometimes to remind us of what we are most grateful for. Moment's ago Jefferson Starship's song "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" randomly popped up on my music play list. As I sat there and listened to the lyrics, it sings the words that my heart speaks of when I think about all of you. Well, I did have to adjust a few words here and there to make it work, but you get the just of things: "And we can build this dream together
Standing strong forever
Nothing's gonna stop us now
We'll still have each other
Nothing's gonna stop us
Nothing's gonna stop us now I'm so glad I found you
I'm not gonna lose you
Whatever it takes
I will stay here with you
Take you to the good times
See you through the bad times
Whatever it takes
Is what I'm gonna do
Let 'em say we're crazy
What do they know?
Let the world around us
Just fall apart
We can make it
If we're heart to heart
Build this dream together
Standing strong forever
Nothing's gonna stop us now"
To my fire survivors, everyone talks about how "resilient" you all are. In my opinion, you are the epiphany of strength, valor, determination and love. I cannot even write a complete sentence without my eyes watering when I think of how honored I am to be able to stand side by side with you, holding your hands, hugging you, being that shoulder to cry on or just vent to when it seemed like the world around us just blew up before our very eyes.
Some said you were "crazy" for rebuilding your homes, but I saw it as you never giving up on the "dream". Hand in hand, heart to heart with your fellow neighbors, with a willpower that I have never experienced before, shouting out loud to the world at the top of your lungs "Nothing IS going to STOP US NOW!"
Heck, what does the world know? Well, I guess we can say they know now.
I am so glad we all found each other early on this rocky road. I met many of you when the "bad times" started, some before and now, four years later, we are able to reflect on the "good times" we shared during this course. Oh, how my heart delights when I see smiles on your faces that have slowly replaced the exhausted frowns that had to deal with the many headaches when it came to things like debri removal, insurance, contractors, set backs and much more. Ugh! Frustrating moments for sure.
I do want to acknowledge and respect that we still have some neighbors who have not completely rebuilt yet and I see every day how our community still comes together to support them in every way you can.
One of many memorable times is when we organized a protest in downtown Santa Rosa at the Old Courthouse Square advocating for your insurance rights!! Certainly one of my most proudest moments was standing side by side with all of you and guess what .... you all made a difference! You did it and Capitol Hill heard your voices loud and clear - that was evident when the Governor invited us to personally meet with him. You did this while working full time jobs, raising your families, searching for places to live and rebuilding your homes and lives.
Gosh, so much more to say, so many memories. The thing that stands out to me the most is how you love on" others who have gone through the same experience you have. I remember after the 2019 Kincaide and 2020 Wahlbridge fires, some of you feverishly put packets together of helpful information on "lessons learned" to help relieve the burden of someone experiencing loss for the first time. I remember tabling with you at the Local Assistance Center and taking a back seat, watching the compassion and love that you had for others who experienced all that you went through. How grateful they were to have found someone who had understood them, you may never see those people again, but do know you made a difference.
What can I say? I love you folks. I love the way you love others. I love your determination of fighting the good fight and never giving up on yourselves or your neighbors. That is what community is all about. We have not only rebuilt homes together, we built a stronger community wrapped in a colorful tapestry that represents all of your heartaches, joys, fears, and victories.
There is still more work to be done. None of us ever signed up to be "fire recovery and emergency services" experts, but here we are helping people not just in California, but in others states who have now lived what we have gone through and who are barely learning how to navigate the "system". Some of you are now doing recovery and resiliency work as a living -- so, so proud of you!
Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your lives and supporting me in return when I needed it. You truly are my inspiration. Love you to the moon and back, Jenny