It was very nearly 4 years ago to this day that we woke up and looked at the sky. There were fires blazing outside of San Diego, but we just never thought that they could come close to us.
I remember that my ex husband had decided to go to church, and I stayed behind that day. We lived on the edge of a canyon, and I walked to the edge, and looked out into the canyon, seeing a large plume of smoke way at the other end.
The fire was close enough to be truly frightening. I hopped into the shower and got dressed. The phone rang, and it was Gary. He was telling me that the pastor of the church had announced that they were having a "voluntary evacuation" of the neighborhood that the church was in. Gary told me that he wanted to me to stay and pack up some things in case we were going to be evacuated.
I didn't exactly behave like a calm, cool, hero with a single possessed attitude. It was me, and three kids, a cat, and we were babysitting a very elderly dog that belonged to our neighbors. I remember running into the storage room and pulling out some large tubs, and telling the kids to throw their clothes into the tubs, so that we would have clothes.
I remembered the photo albums, my jewelry, and other things that I knew that I would never be able to replace. I packed some clothes, but as it turned out, no clothes that I could have worn because I packed sweaters, and a dress. No jammies, no undies, no extra shoes. I packed a few of Gary's uniforms, but forgot his shoes, and his covers.
It was this fire that frightened me so much, I realized that I was not prepared for an emergency. I did realize that I was self reliant. I also realized that my marriage was over. Not hurt, not stressed, but it was over.
Gary didn't come home to help us pack for a possible evacuation. He didn't come home to comfort the kids. He didn't come home to make sure that the things he would need got packed. He decided that the policemen needed water, and he was busy helping others at the church.
I didn't have any issues with having a husband who loved to help others so much. But it dawned on me that he didn't bother to make sure his family was safe. It was as if he just didn't care.
Just as I got everything packed up, I remember walking to the edge of the canyon again, and in the distance seeing flames, and seeing houses burning. The fire had certainly come a LOT closer to our neighborhood. I went running to houses, knocking on doors, letting neighbors know that the fire at the end of the canyon was close enough that we could see the homes it was burning without binoculars. After about 5 doors, the police came through the area. We were now under a mandantory evacuation. We had 15 minutes to get out of the house. I sent the eldest child off to get the dog we were dog sitting, I ran into the house to get the youngest two kids, and to make sure we had the Bean's (Daughter #2) asthma medicine, and we threw everything into the car.
Gary called at this time, and said that we were supposed to go to his cousins home down in National City ( a community right on the border of Mexico...we could see Tijuana from the front step of their house). Off we went, not really knowing about anything about what it was going to be like. Gary's cousin was married to a very sweet Phillipino lady who didn't speak english very well. They lived in a very small 2 bedroom house. There were the 4 of us ( me and the three kids), Gary's cousin, his wife. Her cousin, her cousin's husband, their 2 kids, a friend of their kids, their little dog, and her pregnant daughters boyfriend. And Gary showed up to sleep. Yes, 13 people in this house.
When we got to National City the sky was still blue and hopeful looking, but it wasn't long at all when the sky turned a sickening color of orange. It was like we were in some sort of a science fiction film. The air had this bizarre aroma...not like what you smell when you burn wood in your fireplace, but it was acidic, painful. We sat in front of the television, watching it like crazed people, looking for any kind of a lifeline. The news was reporting all sorts of things, a lot of fallacies and rumors. A plane crashed on the 15, because it couldn't see where to land at the hobby airport. It was as if we were living through Armageddon.
The photo to the left is a picture of the fire in the canyon at the end of Tierrasanta Boulevard. The first photo is the neighborhood that a family from our church lived in. Their house was totally lost. We were fortunate. We had to keep the Bean inside because of the poor air quality, we had to clean up the ash that seemed to seep into EVERY corner of our home. I dusted every day for a week and it still didn't go away.
The devastation from the fires that year went beyond the material. I realized that my feelings about feeling "safe" because my husband was around were lies. I was not safe. When his family was in danger, when his wife needed his help, he was nowhere to be found. He was doing what he felt was the right thing, leaving us on our own. When I needed him to be a man, to show that he loved and cared for us, he was gone. It wasn't a good place to be mentally for me.
So now, as I watch the news, and see the devastation of the fires in southern California, I cannot help buy mourn the loss of so many things that I loved. Things that didn't get physically burned in the fire, but certainly things that were destroyed by the fire.
My prayers are with those in the fires this year.