Just a mere two months ago, I was at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference. On opening day the lunchtime speaker shared her family’s experience of losing their home to the Waldo Canyon fire. The 2013 conference was themed “Rising from the Ashes” in dedication to all that had happened to our community and with a vow that we would regrow together. The recount, beautifully written and presented, was a tearfest. Every local writer in the large ballroom had been affected in some way. Many, like me, had been displaced. A few lost homes, many opened their homes, some were actively involved in direct support to firefighting and everyone knew someone that fell into every category along the way.
The room contained about the same number of attendees as the number of houses lost and was dead silent. Her account was moving and informative, both relating to shared experience and revealing unique circumstances. The out-of-state visitors had many sincere questions and true compassion. The recollection stirred up raw sensations buried within me.
For about a month, I’ve been dreading the first anniversary, June 23.
The thought of seeing archived media coverage has been unnerving. Images of houses burning, beautiful National Forest destroyed, sirens, smoke plumes, the nighttime lava-like glow, the constant reel of news briefs, the smell and taste of smoke day after day, the orangey color when the sun pushes through the haze that shrouds the city, the sound of aircrafts delivering hope for containment are most but not all of the memories that have shaken my senses and quickened my heartbeat.
The surreality of a living nightmare.
Our city was preparing to face those feelings head on, celebrate the successes and continue to heal. I was bracing myself for the onslaught of images and searching for the comfort zones where tragedy meets community. Where friendships grow stronger and values solidify.
We were evacuated from our home and thankfully were able to return to a house and neighborhood fully intact. But 18,247 acres burned, 346 homes were destroyed, 32,000 residents were evacuated, and it was dubbed the most expensive fire in Colorado state history with insurance claims totaling more than $352.6 million.
Two days ago, well before our community has found peace, another fire has attacked our city.
It’s day 3 of the Black Forest fire. The latest news briefing stated 15,700 acres burned, 38,000 people evacuated, 360 homes destroyed and counting, no containment and two people have been found dead.
While it’s the most threatening fire right now, it’s not the only one in our state.
And the nightmare continues.