We stood together in the Chico lobby searching for familiar faces in the crowd. In the surge of people we would from time to time catch a glimpse of a friend, and through hugs and tears our stories gushed out. Almost everyone said that they either lost everything or they were still waiting on news.
All of the emotions were present as the community began to deal with the magnitude of their personal and corporate losses. These folks lost more than a neighborhood. They also lost jobs, neighborhood stores and services. Where do I pick up my mail, get groceries, and find my meds? My doctors and pharmacist were all local. And work, how will we survive? The questions and lack of answers are daunting. Will the children's school reopen and what about their school mates? What about my church family? Do I still have a family?
Unnoticed by most, another group is scatter amongst the evacuees. They have already learned the status of their homes...they are standing. These are the other victims of the tragic fire. Their homes and their belongings are still intact. They have their toys waiting for their return, but they are still displaced. The entire electrical power grid must be replaced because most of it was destroyed in the fire. There is no safe water, no internet. The basic utilities will not be available for months if not years. It is probable that their place of employment is gone. Their neighbor is no longer surrounded by massive pines and cedar trees, and the neighbors' homes have disappeared. There will be no block desert exchange on Thanksgiving. Although their homes stand, every belonging is smoke filled and potentially toxic. The children's school mates are disbursed around the state and beyond. And the mortgage is still due.
Two of my friends are feeling that no one wants to hear their story once they say their home was not destroyed. But their story needs to be heard. Their story will continue because many insurance companies, if they repeat what happened in the Carr Fire, will refused to pay for the costs of smoke damage. They are not eligible for most governmental assistance programs because their house stands. They are standing like their homes, lonely and alone.
These are the frequently forgotten victims of a natural disaster, but they suffer deeply. So please remember to listen to their story and extend whatever compassion and comfort you are able.
Shirley Grear and her husband Carl recently joined the Paradise community. They are now evacuees, survivors, and thrivers