My View: Notes from the Front Row (Opinion)
•First, a thank you. To everyone, and I mean everyone whose heroic efforts saved this community. To on-the-ground firefighters, the pilots, truckers and bulldozers, all the behind-the-scenes people we don’t know, the fire strategists who constantly adapted to the situation, law enforcement, meteorologists, public information officers, federal, state, and local government, and anyone I missed. You kept us safe. A grateful community thanks you.
•To those who lost their homes and possessions, no amount of words can ease the suffering you have. Please know that you have friends all around this county and in South Shore that are here to help in any way we can.
•Whenever you experience a catastrophic situation, it gets me to thinking, what can you learn from that experience. Not asking that question is a missed opportunity for each of us as individuals or collectively as a community.
•As a community, it was beautiful to see how everyone pulled together. I studied fire maps, monitored social media, talked to friends looking for any hint of good news that the fire was turned back or had miraculously stopped. Like many, I waited with bated breath for the 5 p.m. briefing to get the update. Often disappointed, but being inspired by little things like the fight to save Sierra-at-Tahoe, to see that those years of preparation managing the forest worked.
•I was impressed with so many things, focused communication from the incident command and a community of 25,000 to evacuate itself without incident. I was equally impressed with all the agencies that lent a hand in protecting our place. I have never been happier to see the Oxnard Police Department patrolling or firefighters in their trucks from communities all over the west.
•I learned that when the cause is great enough, people can work together for a positive outcome in so many small ways, from locals sharing the video from their home cameras to gathering up pets, to offering a voice of reassurance to on-edge neighbors to all the agencies too many to list. We put aside our differences and lent a hand. Imagine if we can carry that kindness over to so many other challenges we face.
•I am sure each of us learned something, maybe small, maybe life changing. I spent the first night of my evacuation hunkered down with members of South Shore in the Red Cross evacuation center in Minden. We took a cot and a blanket on the gym floor of a community center. As the night progressed, individuals and families began to arrive, heeding the evacuation orders rolling out of South Shore. Seeing them with exhaustion in their eyes, young kids who were frightened and scared clinging to each other. Parents who are living month to month on service industry paychecks, wondering what will happen next to them. Will their home and belongings be destroyed by an unrelenting beast of a fire? Them not knowing how will they recover and how they will they take care of their family, I felt empty, helpless. Somehow, we must do better for those who live here.
•Perhaps the most important thing I learned is something many of you already knew. I have always thought of South Shore as the place I live, for decades. But upon being a nomad floating around Northern California fully prepared to lose everything, and at peace with it, and being welcomed home that early Monday, I realized I had been wrong all this time. This isn’t a place I live. It’s my home. There is a difference. And I finally get it.
It is a Wrap
To all those that posted signs, cheered on the first responders, hosted the fundraisers, and all the help and support from all corners of our community across the board — Thank you.
Carl Ribaudo is a columnist, consultant, speaker, and writer who lives in South Lake Tahoe. You can reach him at email@example.com.
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