When Tragedy Hits, One Community Opens Their Arms To Help

Sunday:  I’m sitting here at a neighborhood hotel visiting with my parents as my daughter and husband take in some extra pool time.  My parents traveled up for a very special event in our life.  My daughter and I took the next step in our faith.  We were baptized!

Now:  During that visit with my parents, I attempted to multitask – not very successfully I might add.  I was starting to write my next blog post and revised the first paragraph three or four times.  Each time I thought maybe I would take it in a different direction.  “Let’s talk about my faith and how it helped me through my cancer.”  Nah!  That wasn’t working for me at that time; maybe later.  “Let’s talk about my parents; two people that watched their two daughters suffer through breast cancer within a year of each other.”  Nope!  That wasn’t cutting it for me either.  “How about the family units that sticks together through thick and thin?”  I just couldn’t focus enough to write.


You see, Sunday morning was an absolute blessing for my daughter and I.  My parents, in-laws, and husband were there to witness us take that next step in our faith.  Unfortunately, as soon as we came home, we heard word of a fire just outside of town.  We have had a dry winter and an early, hot summer in our area.  The sage brush lit up and spread quickly.  By dinner time, I heard the fire was in a particular area – still away from town, but close enough to cause concern in those living on the outer edges.  As we headed to my parents hotel for a swim, I thought all was okay.  Five minutes into our stay in the lobby and people were talking about the fire, many concerned if the hotel was in the evacuation area.  I walked outside and stopped in my tracks.  The fire, fueled by the dry grass and gusty winds, was here in our little town.  Homes were being evacuated with minutes to spare.  Smoke turning our blue sky brown and ash falling all around.  My blessed day was quickly forgotten, as was the ability to concentrate – lost back in the lobby of the hotel.

As we watched the fire burning that night and constantly checking online for the latest updated information, my daughter was hyperventilating.  I spent much of the night comforting her, allowing her to react, explaining how to be prepared, and singing silly songs in hopes to calm her down enough to fall asleep.  During this time, reports were coming in with numerous houses on fire.  Burning embers, blown by the wind and carried across town, landed in our commercial district setting a chain reaction of four burning warehouses – each with their own dangerous chemicals.  The devastation became wide spread very quickly for much of our town.

When morning arose the next day, flames still burning the hillsides and smoldering the burnt down homes, the numbers were coming in of the destruction.  28 homes burned down – 23 in one neighborhood alone.  Hundreds of homes were evacuated, displacing thousands of residents.  Many spent the night at friends’ or families’ houses.  Some checked into local hotels.  Others took shelter at a local high school.


What I love about our little town has been the scenery, the hiking trails walking the ridges just above us, and the beauty of the mighty Columbia River.  After three years of fires running through our hills, I have grown to love this place a little more.  Our community amazes me.  The way we come together when each other is in need warms my heart.  Local businesses are already starting to feed and clothe those that lost their homes.  Salons are offering free shampoos and haircuts for those that are unable to make it home at this time.  Local high school students stayed up all night helping the elderly from a dementia care facility that was evacuated.  The list continues to grow.  The idea of community is one that you live in, and when that community responds with open arms to those in need, you know that is one you never want to leave.  This community opened their arms for me when I was battling cancer; you better believe we will be opening our arms for those who lost everything.

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