The skies are a little bluer, at least they are over my home this morning. When I woke up, I was startled by the noise outside. Then I realized it was the sounds of traffic. Strange that I hadn’t noticed the relative eerie silence over the past forty-eight hours, but it had been there. Today, at least some people are returning to their work and their lives. Thousands of others are not, their lives having been redefined through an act of God so unforgiving that it shakes one’s faith.
This is where it gets hard. I have joked to friends and family and have made light of my personal circumstances here in San Diego, but not because there is anything amusing or funny going on. That is just what I do and how I cope. Others will deal with their grief and their fears in their own ways. For Steve and I, we must begin the process of healing. What afflicts us is survivor’s guilt.
What do you say to a friend, a colleague, a client or even a complete stranger who has lost everything? When do you go back to your daily routine, and how do you resolve in your own mind that performing a mundane yet necessary routine task or obligation is somehow not a show of disrespect for those who do not have the luxury?
Since Monday morning, I have been following the fires in San Diego County and in the San Bernardino Mountains with nearly equal determination. I consider both my communities. We are not rich, but we are blessed to have homes in both places, and I am now convinced beyond doubt that the residents of these communities are among the finest anywhere. In San Diego, a local reporter watched his home burn to the ground while he reported it to the live cameras. In Lake Arrowhead, I read of a firefighter battling to save a structure while speculating on the emergency frequency I was following what the fate of his own home might be a few blocks away. At Qualcomm Stadium, one of our more visible evacuation centers, at least one report speculated that the volunteers outnumbered the evacuees. Volunteers were being turned away. What they really needed was money.
Gratitude. Our firefighters, law enforcement and other emergency personnel have worked tirelessly to protect our communities and at great personal risk. Our elected officials have responded from the outset with equal conviction and commitment. They are all tired, and they are all hungry. Yet, they have performed and continue to perform their jobs in the most brilliant ways imaginable. They have saved lives, and the numbers speak for themselves. I called my own evacuation an overreaction, yet this “overreaction” was precisely what was needed. There are not enough words to properly thank them.
Pride. These communities continue to rally to lend support to the victims. They give of their time, of their money, and of their homes. The outpouring of compassion has been enormous. It reminds us that people are good.
This morning, I hear a songbird outside, several, now that I stop to listen. It will be awhile before I feel like singing again, and I feel guilty even dwelling on such things. God bless everyone who was touched by this tragedy.