My story is a little different. I'm no longer a local resident of Pateros. I left 20 years ago after HS graduation. 20 years! But it never stopped being "my" town, my HOME. I came home for my 20th HS Reunion and was looking forward to seeing my classmates and many others at Apple Pie Jamboree. My biggest concern prior to the fires was my weight. My weight? I was wishing I had lost another 10 lbs. It's so silly to think about that now. People have lost EVERYTHING! My concerns and my perspective on life changed so drastically the moment my parents neighbors at the beautiful Alta Lake Golf Resort knocked on the door and said I should take a look outside. Flames. We could see them from the course, but they were across the highway, across the river. Certainly we were safe. Ultimately, we were. But we didn't know it at the time. In an instant, the sky turned black. I drove into Pateros and saw flames everywhere and my 3 young daughters were screaming. And praying. I was in shock. I spent the next several hours checking Facebook constantly for updates. I couldn't believe the fire jumped and went to the golf course. I felt afraid. Prayed all night. Finally, at 4:00 am, I got a Facebook message from a classmate. "Your parents house is still standing." That's what great about the people of Pateros. They care. She was concerned about her mom's house, her family, but she made sure we knew about my parents home. I'm thankful my parents home was spared, but so many neighbors and friends lost their homes. 50+ homes at Alta Lake alone. Some are rebuilding and some are not. My parents didn't lose their home, but some of their friends are not coming back. It will never be the same, that's for sure.
My aftermath story is different too. I saw the devastation. My kids saw it too. And that's what they remember. I found my 9 year olds suitcase packed with precious things. She told me it's for "when our house burns down." When. Not if. She couldn't sleep for weeks. Even now, everytime the wind blows, she fears a storm is coming and will cause a fire. She didn't want to make s'mores at Girl Scout Camp. She smells leaves burning and is filled with anxiety. My younger girls didn't understand at first that the fires are over. They kept asking "Is Nana and Bubba's house OK?" My heart hurts for their hearts. Forever changed.
I look at my home and my belongings and feel guilty. I follow so much on Facebook about volunteers and survivor stories and feel guilty. But I also feel proud. My hometown is rallying together. They are amazing. But people are hurting. People still need help.