Saying hello to my new community
Two hours into the vast Nevada desert, the shimmering ghosts on the hot asphalt began jabbering.
“Come closer, Southern boy, you’ll reach us,” they mocked. “Just a little more, a little more … yeah, that’s it.”
Don’t trust mirages. They’re mean.
I’d been devouring 700 miles a clip since I hit the road, and as I neared South Lake Tahoe, my excitement increased in proportion to the ache in my hips. It was about 3 p.m., July 13. I was eager to start my new job at the Tahoe Daily Tribune, so a few sadistic phantasms wouldn’t deter me.
I’d begun the cross-country trip 4 1/2 days earlier from Greenville, N.C., where I’d worked for the past three years and nine months.
Barbara, my wife of 27 years, and I had anticipated the move for three weeks. She was temporarily staying behind – a good job and a trip to Australia with her brother were reasons to stick around. We figured she’d join me in about six months if things went well.
But now, with the 2,900-mile trip looming, the moment we’d dreaded was upon us.
So we hugged. And cried. And told each other not to worry.
“Drive carefully,” Barbara told me. “And don’t speed.”
With that, she jumped into her car, started the engine and with a wave headed to work.
I spent a few minutes holding our cats, Mable and Millie, and idly observing other things around the house I didn’t want to forget.
When I’d had enough, I climbed into the driver’s seat of my 1995 Camry, turned the key and pointed the Toyota grill toward the mountains of western North Carolina …
Several weeks earlier — and just a few days after I’d accepted the Tribune job — I awoke to a CNN report about a raging wildfire near South Lake Tahoe.
“What!? You can’t be serious!” I yelled.
My new community was burning to the ground, and I felt as helpless as a newborn. And it didn’t have much to do with journalistic instinct, either. I cared about the story, of course, but the fire burned my soul, and I wanted to douse it.
The next week crawled: Day after day, I feared the worst but hoped for the best.
Both came to pass: Homes and belongings perished, but no one died.
I arrived in the area with the fire under control, but with still-smoldering embers sending smoke signals into the impossibly blue Tahoe sky.
As I write this from the editor’s seat in my cozy Tribune office, I’m aware more than ever of the enormous responsibility we have to you, our readers.
I guarantee we’ll strive to be fair, well-balanced, accurate and impartial. We’ll also seek to ensure that local public institutions serve the best interests of our community and that elected and appointed officials perform their duties honestly and openly.
I hope to meet many of you as I settle into my new home. Please feel free to call or visit: My door is open.
— Paul Dunn is editor of the Tahoe Daily Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (530) 542-8047.