This is an article written by our CEO, Sadie Hess, on the Carr Fire. It was originally written for our Compass Newsletter.
Do you ever get an assignment you are dreading? I know you all think that I lead the organization, but all good leaders also know how to follow. So, because Mary is in charge of the newsletter, she assigns me articles to write. I, like the good rule follower I am, do what she says (even if I drag my feet a bit…). She assigned me an article on the Carr Fire. Yuck.
The Carr Fire is absolutely a four-letter word in our house: In our temporary rental house that is, because we lost our home in the fire. Sorry if that came out crass: my main coping mechanism is sarcasm. I think I learned it from years of social work.
Many of us experienced a horrific chain of events that unfolded in late July. Many feared that it would take out all of Redding–saw the plumes of smoke and the red sky and wondered what would happen next. It was like a war zone. The smoke was thick as tar and ash were everywhere. People walked around in a daze—both in shock and grief.
The Catastrophe of a Whole Community
At least this is how I understand it went. I was on another continent. I was on a cruise ship when I learned of the fire. I had no smoke. I had no fear for my safety or my family’s safety. I watched it all on a TV screen in another country. It was so far removed from me in one way, but so connected to me in every other way. It was a helpless feeling to be so far from not only our personal disaster, but the catastrophe of a whole community we love and cherish.
Our pain quickly became public due to our social media world. Within hours, friends and family knew about our loss. They watched on as we revealed pictures of a charred home. Eric’s classmate started a GoFundMe page. We received emails, gifts, cards and encouraging messages from all over. It was the most exposed I have ever felt, but also the most supported. The world seemed to “pull” for us, as we navigated a new difficult reality.
I have tried to sum up this complex tragedy to people who asked. Your home is a precious thing. It holds your legacy and your traditions. We had a beautiful dream home with lots of stuff, but the stuff is not what we grieve. Everything that we truly miss was tied to a memory and a person. It is our Christmas ornaments, our Disney silhouettes, our handwritten wedding vows, and our wedding DVD. It is these tangible things that represent the intangible: love, connection, tradition.
So, I write this article to first say thank you. I better understand how love transfers through people. I felt so loved, cared for and known in this season.
But I also want you to know you don’t need to feel bad for us anymore (don’t cry for us, Compass???). We still feel blessed beyond our wildest dreams. We have a collection of people who represent the intangible. We will form new memories, new rituals and new connections because more than ever before we know what we treasure. Thank you for being part of my treasury. On a practical note, get yourself a fire safe, know your insurance policies, and upload your pictures to the cloud. That should be said too 🙂